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

There’s no greater challenge facing New York City transportation than the L train East River tunnel shutdown that could start as early as 2019 (NYT). Recently, the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives reached out to see if Sidewalk Labs could demonstrate what impact the L train closure will have on daily commutes.

This week, Sidewalk’s engineers released a new tool that helps do just that — and that visualizes accessibility via transit across NYC more broadly (Sidewalk Talk). We're calling it the NYC Transit Explorer. Check out the demo here.

The map tool is built on top of a transit router that uses GTFS feeds to determine travel times and routes throughout the five boroughs. Traditional navigation routers direct people from Point A to Point B. Our demo shows people how long it would take to get anywhere in the city via transit from a given origin.

Inspired by TransAlt’s request, you can also see what happens in a world without L train stops in Manhattan. Explore away!

  • Bonus read: San Francisco ranked best city to live without a car (Curbed)
(Image: Screenshot via NYC Transit Explorer)

What we're thinking

Urban-Tech Policy I: Long before cities get flying cars, drones will rule our shared urban airspace. There will be clear benefits (from bridge assessments to burrito deliveries) but also big questions around things like privacy, safety — even the noise impact of all those buzzing bird bots. As an op-ed by the U.K. innovation group Nesta points out, addressing these concerns will be "as much about urban planning as it is about technological design" (CityMetric). When new technology relies on public space, it's the job of smart policy to guide the tool toward helping cities, not harming them. More shared links:
  • Pedestrians and robots will soon share the pavements (Economist)
  • Microsoft invests in real-time maps for drones (The Verge)
  • Transport Isn’t Technology, It’s Politics (How we get to next)
  • ICYMI - What's the city's role in autonomous vehicles? (Sidewalk Talk)
Urban-Tech Policy II: "The future of urban tech depends on people having confidence that their data is being used in the way it's intended." That's Chief Policy Officer Rit Aggarwala speaking on a panel at Columbia University this week about tech's role in the public realm. How policymakers and companies work together to inspire that confidence is one of the key urban-tech challenges of the moment. Head to our twitter page for the full event tweet stream. For now, a few other quotable moments:
  • NYC CTO Miguel Gamino: When we deploy new tech, it "ultimately needs to be for the benefit of the public...that's our customer." (link)
  • Noelle Francois of Heat Seek NYC: Funders aren't used to investing in non-profit companies that augment public policy. How do we encourage that? (link)
  • Andrew Rasiej of Civic Hall: Some tech moves so fast that it's disrupting old monopolies but creating monopolies of their own. How do we prevent that? (link)
  • Rit Aggarwala: "The question we have to ask ourselves is what benefits we want to receive in exchange for our data." (link)

What we're doing

Welcome!: Sidewalk's Care Lab is excited to announce its first Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Iyah Romm. Iyah will soon join Care from his role as Chief Transformation Officer at the Commonwealth Care Alliance, a Massachusetts-based integrated delivery system focused on populations with complex health needs. His career bridging the urban-tech divide has also taken him through the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and the Department of Public Health. More to come from Care. For now, more recent health links:
  • The Care Lab is seeking a primary care physician to serve as our Chief Health Officer (Apply here)
  • ICYMI - The Way to Healthier Cities Goes Beyond Healthcare (Sidewalk Talk)
  • Why You Should Donate Your Medical Data When You Die (SciAm)
  • A millionaire’s mission: Stop hospitals from killing their patients by medical error (Stat)

What we're reading

Bots + Basic: The Future of Not Working (NYT Magazine). The robot that takes your job should pay taxes, says Bill Gates (Qz). No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream (NYT). Why taxing robots is a bad idea (Economist). The Robot Tax And Basic Income: "worth studying, debating, discussing, and testing" (AVC). What Should Cities Make in the 21st Century? (CityLab).
Parking + Pricing: Good things happen when street parking becomes a bus lane (CityLab). Does the U.S. really need 1 billion parking spots? (Chicago Biz Journal). The next stage of smart city tech starts with parking (Curbed). Don't demonize driving, price it right (CityObs). London to introduce vehicle pollution charge (Guardian). Ridehailing on the Verge of Pricing Perfection (CARS).
Building code: By restricting data, federal housing policy makes segregation invisible again (Vox). Housing Regulations Are For Neighbors, Not Residents (Rooflines). How Cities Should Take Care of Their Housing Problems (NYT). Long: Demystifying HUD (FastCo). Anatomy of a NIMBY (CityLab). Ancient Rome Really Knew How To City (Market Urbanism).
Coding roads: Must read: Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber (Susan J. Fowler). The simple question about self-driving cars that we still can’t answer (WaPo). How a College Kid Made His Honda Civic Self-Driving for $700 (Tech Review). A civil debate: Are driverless cars good for cities? (Doggerel). Waymo: A note on our lawsuit against Otto and Uber (Medium).
Yearning to breathe free: How immigrants are helping Detroit’s recovery (Economist). A Surprising Salve for New York’s Beleaguered Cities: Refugees (NYT). How today’s visa restrictions might impact tomorrow’s America (WaPo). The changing geography of US poverty (Brookings). This App Warns Undocumented Immigrants When Raids Are Coming (FastCo).
Long: Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis (NYT)
List: 8 Steps To Effective Urban Design (The Urban Developer)
"They had made less than $5,000 from AirBed & Breakfast, and somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 selling cereal."
— Leigh Gallagher, "Airbnb’s Surprising Path to Y Combinator" (Backchannel)
Copyright © 2017 Sidewalk Labs, All rights reserved.
The Sidewalk Weekly Newsletter is written by Sidewalk Labs Editorial Director Eric Jaffe. 

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