The Suburb That Tried To Kill the Car – By T.R. GOLDMAN October 2015


What Works

Evanston was failing as a suburb, so it reinvented itself as a mini city. Now the city of Chicago wants to follow its lead.

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At first glance, downtown Evanston, Illinois, doesn’t look revolutionary—just another a gentrifying urban core with the obligatory Whole Foods, the local organic sustainable restaurants serving $14 cocktails, the towering new, high-end luxury apartments filled with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. The booming downtown feels increasingly hip; this summer it was featured as a “Surfacing” destination in the New York Times Travel Section. “I have everything here,” says Joanne McCall, pausing one evening on her way inside Sherman Plaza, a soaring, 26-story condominium building. “The post office, the dry cleaner, the movies, I work out upstairs, the Whole Foods is over there, the hair dresser over here. And the Uber thing is getting big here.”

It takes, in fact, a few extra minutes in the neighborhood to realize what’s different—and what’s missing. Downtown Evanston—a sturdy, tree-lined Victorian city wedged neatly between Lake Michigan and Chicago’s northern border—is missing cars. Or, more accurately, it’s missing a lot of cars. Thanks to concerted planning, these new developments are rising within a 10-minute walk of two rail lines and half-a-dozen bus routes. The local automobile ownership rate is nearly half that of the surrounding area.

Which again, may sound like so many other gentrifying urban areas. Who owns a car in Brooklyn, after all? But Evanston isn’t Park Slope—the city, now 75,000 strong, is quintessentially a suburb, somewhere to escape the density of nearby Chicago, a place to get extra room and, especially, a place to drive your car, jetting down Lake Shore Drive or the Edens Expressway to the Windy City. The houses in Evanston were so idyllic, in fact, that filmmakers came to use it as the beau ideal of postwar suburban life—it was where Hollywood came to film all-American suburban movies like Sixteen CandlesDennis the MenaceUncle Buck, and both Home Alone 2 and Home Alone 3.

And the whole point of the suburbs, reinforced by decades of local zoning laws and developers’ plans for a car-centric lifestyle, was that you weren’t supposed to live on top of your neighbor, that there was supposed to be plenty of parking everywhere you went and that you weren’t supposed to walk anywhere.

But Evanston had a different idea: What if a suburban downtown became a place where pedestrians ruled and cars were actively discouraged? As it turns out, what looks like normal urban gentrification actually marks the success of one of the most revolutionary suburbs in America. And its approach to development is fast becoming a model across the region—a model even embraced by its urban neighbor to the south, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Evanston, Chicago and their neighbors all now want to attract more people like Tyler Hauck, 27, who pays $2,200 a month for his 1½ bedroom apartment, which he says is “definitely a high-end” building close to one of the region’s transit lines. “On the neighborhood list serve, people say things like ‘You’re paying all this money and you don’t have room for a car?’”

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Urban density got a bad rap sometime in the mid-19th century—nobody found any redeeming value in the overcrowded Victorian slums of London—and by the beginning of the 20th century, the Englishman Ebenzer Howard’s concept of the “Garden City,” a series of outlying satellite villages to a larger, established central city, became the dogma of city planners around the world.

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8 CITIES THAT SHOW YOU WHAT THE FUTURE WILL LOOK LIKE


Cities used to grow by accident. Sure, the location usually made sense—someplace defensible, on a hill or an island, or somewhere near an extractable resource or the confluence of two transport routes. But what happened next was ad hoc. The people who worked in the fort or the mines or the port or the warehouses needed places to eat, to sleep, to worship. Infrastructure threaded through the hustle and bustle—water, sewage, roads, trolleys, gas, electricity—in vast networks of improvisation. You can find planned exceptions: Alexandria, Roman colonial towns, certain districts in major Chinese cities, Haussmann’s Paris. But for the most part it was happenstance, luck, and layering the new on top of the old.

At least, that’s the way things worked for most of human history. But around the second decade of the 20th century, things changed. Cities started to happen on purpose. Beginning with New York City’s zoning laws in 1916, development began to occur by commission, not omission. Laws and regulations dictated the shape of the envelope. Functional decisions determined aesthetic outcomes—not always for the best.

So let’s jump to now: A century, plus or minus, after human beings started putting their minds toward designing cities as a whole, things are getting good. High tech materials, sensor networks, new science, and better data are all letting architects, designers, and planners work smarter and more precisely. Cities are getting more environmentally sound, more fun, and more beautiful. And just in time, because today more human beings live in cities than not.

In this year’s design issue, we’re telling the stories of some of those projects, from the detail of a new streetlight to a sacred city in flux, from masterful museums to infrastructure made for bikes (and the algorithms that run it all). The cities of tomorrow might still self-assemble haltingly, but done right, the process won’t be accidental. A city shouldn’t just happen anymore. Every block, every building, every brick represents innumerable decisions. Decide well, and cities are magic. —Adam Rogers

http://www.wired.com/2015/09/design-issue-future-of-cities/

The Construction Industry Struggles to Rebuild its Worker Ranks – By KRIS HUDSON Sep 11, 2015


While debate rages on about whether demand or supply factors are more to blame for the sluggish home-construction recovery, most industry observers and participants agree on at least one point: Construction labor is in short supply.

Scant availability of skilled construction workers has hampered home construction at various times in the past few years of recovery. But the shortfall seems to have grown more acute of late, as new-home sales are up 21.2% so far this year from the same period last year and commercial construction has increased steadily.

Construction employment isn’t quite keeping pace with that rebound, and workers with certain skills, such as carpenters and sheet-metal installers, are hard to find.

“We are finding a greater failure rate of subcontractors in the industry because they are not able to hire the skilled workers that they need,” said John Finch, chief executive of PBG Builders Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tenn., on a conference call with media on Thursday organized by the Associated General Contractors of America. “That’s resulting in some budget issues and work that has to be redone.”

The Associated General Contractors, the largest U.S. construction-industry association, on Thursday released the results of its survey of 1,358 construction firms about their perspectives on the labor market. Of the respondents, 86% reported difficulty filling jobs for hourly craft workers and salaried supervisors and specialists.

Asked which hourly workers are hardest to find and hire, 73% of respondents cited carpenters, 65% mentioned sheet-metal installers and 63% said concrete workers. In terms of salaried and management employees, 55% of respondents said project managers and supervisors are scarce, 43% mentioned estimating professionals and 34% cited engineers.

 

Oil-trading legend Andy Hall thinks everyone is dead wrong about one big thing – Akin Oyedele Sept 4 2015


crude oil spewing

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Andy Hall, hedge fund boss and the so-called god of oil trading thinks the market is wrong about how “oversupplied” the oil market is, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg.

Crude oil prices crashed 60% from highs last year, rebounded for a few months this year, and then tumbled into a bear market.

Many in the oil market attributed the collapse to a market that was heavily oversupplied.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, crude oil stocks are currently near an 80-year high.

But as Bloomberg’s Simone Foxman and Saijel Kdishan report, Hall’s most recent letter to clients said, “the world, whilst moderately oversupplied, is not awash in oil.”

Hall’s Astenbeck Capital Management hedge fund was, however, crushed by the ugly downturn in oil prices two months ago and lost about 17% in July — its second-largest loss ever. The fund was flat in August.

According to Bloomberg, Hall said in his latest note to clients there’s still room to store about 200 million barrels of oil, adding that current prices reflect a “worst case scenario.”

Again, official data from the EIA show that US crude stockpiles have definitively surged within the past year, though it seems that Hall doesn’t think this as dire a signal for the market as current prices reflect.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/andy-hall-on-oil-market-oversupply-2015-9

 

Some Moved On, Some Moved In And Made A New New Orleans – Greg Allen AUGUST 26, 2015 4:28 PM ET


hurricane katrina: 10 years of recovery and reflection

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans today is smaller than when the storm hit, with 110,000 fewer people than the nearly half-million who had lived there. But the city’s recovery is a story that varies with each neighborhood. In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward, many residents never returned. Others, like the French Quarter, have seen many newcomers and now have more households than they did in 2005.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

David Gilkey/NPR

With new residents, a different mix of people now calls the city home than before the storm. Proportionately, the number of whites has risen while the number of black residents has gone down. There are 100,000 fewer black residents in New Orleans than before Katrina. African-Americans now account for less than 60 percent of the population. That’s down from two-thirds.

And that has changed the culture of the city. “You can’t even hear the same dialect that you used to hear,” says Stan Norwood, a barber and leader of a community group in the Freret neighborhood. After spending so much time in Houston after evacuating during Katrina, Norwood says he’s even lost some of the city’s distinctive drawl. “The drag? The New Orleans drag? It’s hard to find,” he says.

After Katrina, Norwood says, many elderly were unable to return to flooded homes. Because the schools were in disarray, some families with children moved to other cities and decided to stay. Others found, even with federal assistance, they didn’t have enough to return and rebuild. And now, Norwood says, those who still want to return to the old neighborhood find houses have been priced out of reach. “Put it like this,” he says. “If you don’t own a property by now and you’re originally from this city and you’re from Uptown and you haven’t had one by now, your chances of getting one are slim to none.”

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http://www.npr.org/2015/08/26/434288564/some-moved-on-some-moved-in-and-made-a-new-new-orleans

“For far too long, people of color have been at the bottom of the pile”: Why black churches are embracing the clean energy revolution


Rev. Ambrose Carroll explains why black churches are moving to the forefront of the environmental justice movement

"For far too long, people of color have been at the bottom of the pile": Why black churches are embracing the clean energy revolution

Low-income and communities of color are on the front lines of climate change. They have, for that matter, been disproportionately shouldering the burden of our reliance on dirty energy since the beginning: nearly 40 percent of the people living and breathing in the vicinity of coal-fired power plants are people of color; not unrelatedly, asthma rates for African Americans are 35 percent higher than they are for Caucasians.

Fighting climate change, and the energy revolution that doing so requires, is for many such communities a question of environmental justice. It’s also, Rev. Abrose Carroll tells Salon, an incredible opportunity.

Carroll is the founder of Green the Church, a movement that’s “tapping into the power and purpose of the black church” as a moral and social leader on climate issues. It’s a project of Green for All, the organization founded by Van Jones to promote a renewable energy economy while simultaneously lifting people out of poverty, by empowering them to become a part of that charge.

This past week, African American faith leaders from around the country gathered for a three-day summit in Chicago. In the lead-up to the gathering, Salon spoke with Ambrose about why the climate movement needs the black church — and how the black community is poised to benefit from the changes our planet so desperately requires. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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http://www.salon.com/2015/08/23/for_far_too_long_people_of_color_have_been_at_the_bottom_of_the_pile_why_black_churches_are_embracing_the_clean_energy_revolution/

 

Checked Out – By Siva Vaidhyanathan – JULY 28 2015 11:11 AM


The Library of Congress has let itself become obsolete. It needs a new leader who can steer it into the digital age.

The Library of Congress needs more than a respected scholar. It needs a visionary leader. Photo by Alexey Rotanov/Shutterstock

The Library of Congress needs more than a respected scholar. It needs a visionary leader.
Photo by Alexey Rotanov/Shutterstock

Last month, Librarian of Congress James Billington announced that he will resign as of Jan. 1, 2016, after 28 years in office. Filling this vacancy may not seem like the most pressing matter before President Barack Obama, but in fact the decision is one that could help define his legacy. He has the opportunity to name a visionary leader who can nudge the nation toward a richer, more open information ecosystem appropriate for a democratic republic in the 21stcentury.

Traditionally, the Librarian of Congress has been an esteemed scholar who does not threaten conservative sensibilities. Billington is a revered historian of Russia. For much of his tenure, especially early on, he was regarded as a stable and effective advocate for the institution. But he never seemed to grasp the potential of digital media to expand the influence—and thus the value—of the library.

There is some push now to encourage Obama to appoint a professional librarian with administrative experience from one of America’s outstanding academic research libraries. But the library needs more than a respected scholar or librarian. It needs a visionary who can leverage the position to lead us through some essential upgrades and debates that could push this vital institution into public consciousness.

Thomas Jefferson reseeded the Library of Congress with his own impressive book collection after British troops burned the library and its 3,000 books in 1814. Over the ensuing 200 years, the library became a national treasure to researchers and tourists, a repository of our rich tradition of American publishing, and an essential resource for congressional staff. For more than a century, the library was fully stocked as the official copyright repository: You can’t register a copyright without submitting a work to the library. But as the collections have grown—they now include music, film, television, and radio recordings, as well as video games, software, and electronic records of Web publications—the library has increasingly depended on congressional appropriations to keep its operations going. And funding has been far below what the library needs to perform its functions of preserving all this material and making it available to the pubic.

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Future Highways Could Be Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles – BELINDA LANKS 07.13.15. 4:16 PM


VolkerWessels

Plastic bottles are recycled into jeans, toys, furniture and, yes, more plastic bottles. The Dutch city of Rotterdam wants to turn them into highways.

The city is seriously considering the technology, which is called PlasticRoad. Construction firm VolkerWessels calls it a greener alternative to asphalt that is stronger, easier to maintain, and more resistant to temperature extremes than conventional blacktop.

Asphalt, which is dark bituminous pitch mixed with sand or gravel, has long reigned as the road construction material of choice because it is relatively quick and easy to install, cheap, and remarkably durable. It’s also an environmental scourge: Its production releases 96 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually.

That’s led inventors to ponder planet-friendlier materials and applications, including solar-panel arrays and luminescent paint designed to absorb solar energy. And in India, plastic refuse (including bags) already has been used in place of bitumen in 3,000 miles of roadway.

PlasticRoad may not look as cool as some tech-laden proposals, but it’s practical. It doesn’t rely on technical breakthroughs, making it a suitable replacement for asphalt within a few years, according to VolkerWessels. Since the highway is hollow, cables and pipes can easily pass through. It can also be prefabricated and transported as and where needed, reducing construction and traffic disruptions.

Another benefit not to be overlooked: PlasticRoad makes use of our waste. The US generated 33 million tons of plastic waste in 2013, only 9 percent of which was recycled.

However promising, the idea is still just a concept. A prototype must be built and tested to ensure it’s safe to drive on, or if a plastic road will give new meaning to “slippery when wet.”

http://www.wired.com/2015/07/future-highways-made-recycled-plastic-bottles/

The Stock Exchange and United Outages Weren’t Hacks But They Were Just As Scary – By Lily Hay Newman JULY 9 2015 7:50 PM


 A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during Wednesday's outage. Photo by Lucas Jackson


A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during Wednesday’s outage.
Photo by Lucas Jackson

On Wednesday, an hour-and-a-half-long reservation system failure grounded United Airlines flights, the New York Stock Exchange was down for almost four hours, and the Wall Street Journal’s website suffered intermittent outages. At an intelligence committee hearing that afternoon, Sen. Barbara Mikulski firmly told FBI Director James Comey, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” But no matter how hack-like the situation seemed, all three companies and law enforcement have been adamant that bad actors were not behind the failures. And that’s just as scary.

A United representative told the Los Angeles Times that a router issue had “degraded network connectivity for various applications,” causing the company’s system problems. And after consistently but opaquely claiming that there weren’t bad actors behind the stock exchange outage, NYSE said in a statement on Thursday that a software update was to blame. “As is standard NYSE practice, the initial release was deployed on one trading unit … [but] there were communication issues between customer gateways and the trading unit with the new release.” NYSE attempted to correct the problem, but this caused new complications and “the decision was made to suspend trading.” The Wall Street Journal is still investigating the cause of its outages, with some speculating that heavy Web traffic brought the site down.

Between the Office of Personnel Management hack and the breach at Sony, the idea of large-scale malicious cyberattacks has become markedly more real for consumers in recent months. But Dave Chronister, who founded the cybersecurity firm Parameter Security and formerly did IT management at financial institutions like A.G. Edwards, points out that there doesn’t have to be a bad actor on the other end for something to be a cybersecurity problem. “We’re in a hypersensitive time right now where everybody’s worried about the malicious attacker, but the chances are you’re going to have a lot more incidents like [those on Wednesday] than actual attacks,” he said. “These were security incidents. The systems went down. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t an attack.”

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