Welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here are the best things from the interwebs this week. Please add your links in the comments below.
Christopher Standen’s PHD on transport evaluation methods and their limitations has been floating around places for the last few months. Here is an editorial where he highlights the major flaws. The Conversation, “Why the need for speed? Transport spending priorities leave city residents worse off“, Christopher Standen.
As early as the 1960s, however, it become evident that prioritising speed above all else is counterproductive. It’s making our cities less efficient and liveable, and consigns many people to stressful and unhealthy daily commutes.
Faster travel does allow people to move further from work and other destinations – and not have to spend any more time travelling. It’s also true that many households value the ability to move to outer suburbs, where lower land values mean they can afford a home (or a larger one).
But when thousands of households migrate to low-density suburbs, we end up with urban sprawl. This is bad not only for productivity and public health, but also makes public transport less viable. Sprawl entrenches dependence on cars. This limits access to economic and social opportunities for those unable to drive.
High vehicle speeds and longer driving distances create multiple other problems. These include more traffic noise, more road trauma, higher transport costs and neighbourhoods too dangerous for children to venture outdoors on their own.
Like John Snow’s famous cholera mapping in London, here is a similar story from Wellington. Laura Vaughan, “Mapping Diseases: Typhpoid in 1890s Wellington, New Zealand“, Mapping Urban Form and Society.
Chapple’s map identifies a cluster of typhoid cases in the Holland Street area of the city, where he had found that the street’s sewer was leaking had contaminated the surrounding soil. Coupled to empirical fieldwork, which found overcrowded housing in the street, the maps were able to highlight (with graphic emphasis of the leaking sewer), the spatial association between housing quality, urban situation and disease.
Hey, it’s Women in Urbanism Aotearoa featured in a Forbes article. Deborah Talbot, “Why Women Matter In Urbanism And City Planning“, Forbes.
Deborah Talbot: Why did you set up Women in Urbanism?
Women in Urbanism (WiU): We are fed up with the glaring lack of women decision-makers in our urban industry (planners, architects, engineers and politicians, for example.)
We in Women in Urbanism Aotearoa believe this lack of representation has a direct effect upon the urban form of our city. City building has just become a competition between men to see who can build the biggest motorway or tallest tower. The biggest size, speed and spend seem to be the only things that have historically mattered to male city planners – especially the men at the top.
What do panels, keynote speakers, managers, senior leaders, boards and meeting rooms in the urban industries all have in common? A serious lack of representation of women. In Aotearoa, this also means women of colour: Māori and Pasifika are notably left out.
Instead, there’s an over-representation of men – mostly white and middle-aged – from privileged backgrounds, and they are the ones who make decisions about our cities.
The *full* cost of a 3-mile (5 km) commute.
Driving: costs society $2.78.
Riding the bus: costs society 38¢
Biking: *saves* society 75¢
Walking: *saves* society $1.08
(#Vancouver as study city) More here:https://t.co/eEsiISOlk4 pic.twitter.com/7xXgZo1FT0
— Taras Grescoe (@grescoe) May 3, 2018
This is a great story that I’m sure will resonate with GA readers. Simon Day, “How public transport saved my marriage“,The Spinoff.
Then the 171 and the Western Line saved me.
My new job at The Spinoff was in Britomart and suddenly public transport was my friend. The 171 leaves from almost directly outside my house and drops me at New Lynn. The Western Line takes 33 minutes from New Lynn to drop me two minutes walk from the office. Door to door it takes 55 minutes. I almost wish it took a little longer.
There are few other times when I have an hour all to myself. In the last year I’ve read the most books since the lazy days of university. I listen to podcasts about US politics. I spend guilt free time on Instagram. If I really need to I get a valuable head start on sending some emails.
Both the bus and train are modern and clean, warm in winter, cool in summer. Mostly they’re on time. It costs $4.80. It’s relaxing and pleasant. And I feel proud to be a part of the public transport revolution, a participant in the future functionality of the city.
This is an amazing chart. pic.twitter.com/DjXtqJdrA7
— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) May 5, 2018
Here’s a summary of how quickly electric bus technology is progressing. Like solar energy, it is a quiet revolution that will change the way we live in the near future. David Roberts, “Electric buses are coming, and they’re going to help fix 4 big urban problems“, Vox.
At the top of the list: buses! City transit buses are ideal candidates for electrification.
For one thing, the world is rapidly urbanizing and particulate pollution — especially from diesel, the fuel of choice for older buses — is increasingly seen as a health crisis. Old buses drive around the city all day, at low speeds, spewing diesel smoke directly into urbanites’ faces, leading to countless illnesses and early deaths. (Diesel smoke is a big contributor to the 6.5 million deaths a year caused by air pollution.)
Electrification would mean that buses emit virtually no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. (The power plants where their electricity is generated might still generate those pollutants, but even if it is powered by coal plants, an electric bus averages far less pollution per-mile than a diesel bus.) Urban air quality would notably and immediately improve.
To help people ascend the steep hills of Lisbon, engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard designed the Santa Justa Lift. It opened in 1902 as steam power, but is now electric; it rises 7 stories and the cabins each carry 29 people https://t.co/L1nKnpgaeg #VaguelyEurovisionRelatedTweet pic.twitter.com/9xngeDYsvf
— Tim Dunn (@MrTimDunn) May 12, 2018
Urban density it the best solution to climate change since people don’t spend so much energy driving long distances. (It also makes for more interesting and productive cities). Lloyd Alter, “Green building isn’t enough; we need green zoning“. Treehugger.
These days it seems that everyone is fighting over zoning. Housing costs in many cities are unaffordable but the great proportion of the cities are locked into single-family zoning and building anything but a detached house seems almost impossible. Right now we see these battles in Seattle, San Francisco, and Toronto, but they are happening just about in every successful city.
And the hilarious thing about it all is that these are also cities that have green building standards. San Francisco has a green building code designed to reduce energy use, Seattle’s green standard “saves resources and promotes renewable, clean energy”, Toronto’s standard’s intent is to “reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The great hypocrisy is that the single biggest factor in the carbon footprint of our cities isn’t the amount of insulation in our walls, it’s the zoning.
Maybe some of car yards and panel beaters in Auckland located in “industry” zoning or similar can be converted to housing. Erica Barnett, “Are Outdated Notions of “INDUSTRIAL AREAS” Hiding a Giant Housing Opportunity?“, Sightline.
Like Seattle’s evolution from sleepy outpost to big city, the definition of “industrial” has been quietly changing for at least the past several decades. Instead of factories spewing toxic fumes and “enormous vats of splashing and spluttering metal,” Thompson says, the term now encompasses firms that make software that enables customers to make their own robots at home, or labs where food production companies test new products. Or companies like Interbay’s Thermetrics, which makes mannequins that measure how fast an air conditioner cools down a car, or how effectively a sleeping bag retains a person’s body heat.
Here are photos from the 1968 protests in Paris matched to their locations today. Guy Lane, “Protests in Paris, May 1968 – photographs then and now“, The Guardian.
As Paris exploded in mass protests, words scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne summed up the revolutionary zeal: “Run free, comrade, we’ve left the old world behind!” Fifty years on, May 1968 remains a watershed moment. Photographer Alicia Canter revisits the key locations.