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The Sidewalk Weekly: what we're thinking, doing, and reading about the future of cities.
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3 Mar 2017

The tools that cities use to manage their intersections haven’t kept up with the times. The good old traffic light does a great job organizing complex car movement and optimizing for travel speed. It wasn’t built for the tasks of improving safety or moving people using other modes.

There’s no simple solution to crowded crossings, but many emerging technologies carry the promise of a more responsive intersection. Sensor arrays and computer vision can make detection of multiple street users readily achievable. Machine learning is becoming more capable of improving large, complex systems. On-site processing can enable more security and data privacy.

In a new Sidewalk Talk post (link), Willa Ng explains how this suite of technologies holds the potential to help cities manage their streets with the real-time judgement and adaptability of a traffic officer. This heightened awareness raises the hope of improving street safety while also helping all travelers instead of just drivers. More congested links:

  • Yet Another Flawed Congestion Report From Inrix (Streetsblog)
  • What's Behind Declining Transit Ridership Nationwide? (CityLab)
  • As traffic deaths soar, cities pursue lower speed limits (WaPo)
  • Rahm Emanuel to Washington: Infrastructure Costs Money (Politico)
(Image: Keith / Flickr)

What we're thinking

Why you don't build me up: In cities around the world, residential housing is still built today the same way it was 50 years ago. Unfortunately, we're not much better for the practice. A new report finds that construction productivity is lower now in the U.S. than it was in 1968 (CityLab). Bringing innovation to the construction industry isn't easy, and reducing building costs alone won't improve housing affordability in big cities, but reimagining the way we approach construction is a critical step in reducing cost of living. More well-built links:
  • ICYMI - The benefits of turning housing construction into housing production (Sidewalk Talk)
  • Thanks to high NYC rents, Newark is having a moment (Bloomberg)
  • The Bronx is building (NYT)
  • Tech workers feel poor in Silicon Valley's wealth bubble (Guardian)
  • Does America’s Housing Policy Need a Reset? (Pacific Standard)
  • Why building more high income housing helps affordability (City Observatory)
Patient zero: It's never been easy to innovate in healthcare, but that hasn't stopped a growing number of start-ups and investors from trying. In a long look at the industry's ongoing "digital revolution," The Economist notes that the big winners from this movement should be not just patients who get better care but "those who avoid becoming patients at all" (link). As our Care Lab has noted, one approach to achieving that goal is using data to identify people who would benefit from non-medical interventions that can save hospital costs down the line (Sidewalk Talk). More clinical links:
  • Facing ACA repeal, community clinics are looking down a double-barreled gun (Modern Healthcare)
  • Medical Devices Are the Next Security Nightmare (Wired)
  • Medicaid Is Doomed (The Intercept)
  • There’s No Magic in Venture-Backed Home Care (Medium)

What we're doing

Beyond L-mageddon: Last week we launched our NYC Transit Explorer map demo (Sidewalk Talk). The tool shows New Yorkers how long it takes to get anywhere in the city by bus or subway, as well as how commute times will change when the L train shuts down in 2019. If you haven't checked it out, please do! And if you have ideas for other features we should add, contact us through this Google Form. So far users have requested better integration with commuter rail, Citi Bike, and ADA compliance. We'll be gathering feedback and evaluating our ability to improve the tool over the short and long term. More map-tastic coverage:
  • Map Your Way to Commuter Freedom in New York (CityLab)
  • Mapping Life Without the L Train (Streetsblog NYC)
  • L train shutdown commute times visualized with new tool (Curbed)

What we're reading

Ew-ber: Uber is doomed (Jalopnik). A perfect storm at Uber (New Yorker). Uber Case Could Be a Watershed for Women in Tech (NYT). Uber CEO Says He 'Must Fundamentally Change' (The Atlantic). Turns out Uber is clogging NYC streets (Daily News). Stop Asking Whether Uber Is Transit's Enemy (CityLab). At Uber, for one to get ahead, another must fail (Qz).
Air apparent: The future will be battery-powered (Grist). Only 14% of plastics are recycled: Can tech innovation tackle the rest? (Guardian). Red State America Acts on Climate Change but Calls It Other Names (SciAm). Remembering a City Where the Smog Could Kill (NYT). SF plans to require that all new buildings and parking be ‘100% electric vehicle ready’ (Electrek).
Touchy tech: Why Nothing Works Anymore (The Atlantic). Study: Using Deep Learning and Google Street View to Estimate the Demographic Makeup of the US (Arxiv). Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? (SciAm). Harvard's Open Data Privacy Playbook (Berkman). The FCC Seems Unlikely to Stop Internet Providers from Selling Your Data (Wired).
Bikes or buses: Mapping the Urban Bike Utopias of the 1890s (NatGeo). Analyzing Bike-Share Usage Data in US Cities (Priceonomics). Report - Better Boarding, Better Buses (NACTO). Singapore May Have Designed the World's Best Bus Stop (CityLab). China’s “Uber for bikes” startups are being taken for a ride by thieves, vandals (Qz). So Far, A Bridj to Nowhere (Transit Center).
AV or not AV: The trucking industry is ripe for automation (The Atlantic). Report: How Cities Can Plan for AVs (UW). A Fascinating Glimpse at How We’ll All Carpool in 2027 (Wired). Robotic Buses Leapfrog Self-Driving Trucks in Autonomy Revolution (Trucks). Driverless Big Rigs Are Nearly Road Ready (SciAm). Driving Into the Future (Consumer Reports).
Long: Donald Trump's 'shadow president' in Silicon Valley (Politico)
Look: What's 6-foot-5, has two wheels and two clubs, goes 9 mph, and can jump? This amazing and/or terrifying new Boston Dynamics robot (YouTube)
"[I]n the end, the secret ingredient of a sustainable neighborhood comeback is commercial diversity. Cafés are wonderful; in some places, they may not prove to be enough."
— Alan Ehrenhalt, "The Limits of Café Urbanism" (Governing)
Copyright © 2017 Sidewalk Labs, All rights reserved.
The Sidewalk Weekly Newsletter is written by Sidewalk Labs Editorial Director Eric Jaffe. 

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