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The Tech City

Thanks to Leo Reynolds on Flickr for this great Creative Commons photo of hitchhikers in Scotland!

I have recently been witness to the colliding worlds of web and mobile app programming and city planning. Communication technology and transportation have long been studied in unison. A good example is the slow decline of the US Postal Service (with its complex logistics and delivery systems) as more and more people choose electronic communication. The exchange of ideas, people and goods rely on such complex systems.

Since the 1980’s, transportation experts have awaited the day when telework would make a sizable impact on commuting behavior. However, working from home has been very slow to take off, fueled by issues such as employee productivity. Regardless, teleconferencing, remote access, and mobile … Continue Reading

Flying Recumbent Monorail Bicycles: Project 10 to the 100’s Public Transport Winner Announced

One of the winners announced yesterday for Google’s Project 10 100 contest provides a great example of the “stuck in the future” boondoggles that Jarrett Walker despairs of getting in the way of functional transit innovation.

As ably pointed out by Wired magazine, the Schweeb technology combines the worst and weirdest aspects of of recumbent bicycles, monorails and personal rapid transit, in an unholy, uncomfortable-looking, cost-intensive and doubtlessly stinky union. After winning $1,000,000 in funding from Google, the company website promises to “soon announce the location where we will build the first transit Shweeb for public use!”  Yikes. Check out the video of the world’s first SHWEEB in Rotorua, New Zealand (above) to … Continue Reading

What Lies Beneath: Subterranean Infrastructure for Street Trees

Silva Cell installation on 4th Avenue in Seattle. Thanks to SDOT on Flickr for the Creative Commons photo!

Wondering what’s under streets has always been a favourite daydream of mine. The juxtaposition of green cities, with vibrant trees emerging from endless paving evokes images of intrepid root networks spreading out beneath the smooth exterior.

Silva Cells, a “modular subsurface integrated tree and stormwater system that holds unlimited amounts of soil while supporting traffic loads beneath paving and hardscape,” is a technology that  makes it easier for trees to survive and thrive in cities. The system provides an area for roots to spread in uncompacted soil and to share resources. The modular units can be laid out as bridges between soil volumes, connecting street tree roots … Continue Reading

Balanced Transportation Analyzer (via Wired)

Today’s post presents a story about transportation modelling and the real costs of driving, originally covered in this month’s Wired magazine. Congestion pricing isn’t exactly a popular idea in North America, so it’s great to see the science behind it taken seriously in non-planning media.

Thanks to Bernard Garon on Flickr for this great Creative Commons photo of New York Traffic.

The goal of traffic engineering is to maintain the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. It is typically measured in terms of vehicular volume, traffic flow, and incident rates. However, traffic and transit are complicated issues with significant economic, environmental, and social and ramifications. Charles Komanoff, an energy-policy analyst, transport economist and environmental activist, has devoted years to measuring and analyzing New York’s … Continue Reading

Weekly Video: Urban Renewal Touch Table

The following was presented as part of the final review of the European Union’s four-year IPCity Project, which focuses on the growing interface between technology and city development… Read more

Globe 2010 Opening Plenary Hopeful and Disappointing

It’s hopeful that 10,000 business people are gathered from around the globe to discuss and create opportunities for a greener economy at the Globe 2010 conference. Amazing actually, when you consider that the world wide economic slump could have caused the risk-averse business scene to shirk away from the imperative to consider the environment in their operations.

However, a number of messages in Globe 2010’s opening plenary were also supremely disappointing. First, sustainability is a feature – not a focus – of business. Granted, GE Energy is has just spent $5 billion and will invest another $10 billion more over five years in research and development of its eco-portfolio. The language used to describe this effort shows a segregated understanding of the role of sustainability. James Suciu, GE Energy’s President of Global Sales & Marketing, described the need to provide, … Continue Reading

Kudos and tidbits

A large part of what we’re attempting to do here at the Planning Pool is to implement user-friendly technologies to give people a greater voice in their community.  We’ll be adding/improving a couple of features over the coming months to achieve this goal.  With this in mind, kudos to Eric Gordon and Gene Koo, who have together been awarded a MacArthur grant for their Hub2 project to explore the urban planning applications of the video game Second Life.

Though some old-timers will scoff at the thought that Second Life might one day be a widely utilized planning tool, it (or something similar) will become only more viable in the future.  There are surely large chunks of essential information (like accurate budgeting) that cannot yet be fully captured in video games, but people like … Continue Reading

Unplugging Part One: Earth Hour

One Saturday last March, some friends and I sat around my kitchen table in the dark drinking beer, eating apple crumble and playing cards by candlelight. We hadn’t blown a fuse. The unplugged evening was in honour of Earth Hour, an annual occasion described by the World Wildlife Fund as a “symbolic event”:
Turning off our lights for an hour won’t stop climate change but it does demonstrate that our individual action is important and adds up to make a big difference. More importantly, it sends a very powerful message to government and world leaders that people want policies and regulations put in place that can achieve meaningful emission reduction to help fight climate change.

My personal experience of unplugging for Earth hour was enlightening (sorry) in a few ways.

The first few … Continue Reading