And yes, it would be great if this dalliance produces genuine improvements in tunnel technologies useful for building actual train-sized tunnels that can move the number of people who need to move. But Musk’s prairie-dog burrows are mostly hype, confusion, and elite projection. While delivering almost nothing useful, they are confusing elite opinion about whether we still need to build mass transit, which we do. Is any marginal benefit worth the resulting delay in getting the infrastructure we really need?
So I want thrilling plots, yes — but also thrilling language. I want sentences I’ll stop to read twice. This is why standard throwaway airport thrillers don’t migrate well beneath ground. The writing may be “muscular” and “spare,” but if it’s not also “inventive” and “excellent” there’s a good chance the book will wind up abandoned on a platform bench. With a long day behind me and a wearying commute ahead of me, I don’t want to settle for distraction; I want to look forward to reading my book with the palpitating excitement of a second date with someone I’ve already fallen for. I want to miss my stop. Ideally, I’ll miss a few.
- Eliminate non-regulated parking spaces in the city. Any “free” curbside parking is lost revenue, more pollution and an “invitation” to bring more cars into the city.
- Gradually expand parking for motorcycles to a third of the curbside space available, and eventually ban sidewalk parking for all motor vehicles.
- Have a “zero-tolerance” policy toward violations such as parking on pedestrian crossings, idling the engine while waiting, and any illegal parking on sidewalks.
- Don’t issue any new parking garage licenses and eliminate minimum parking requirements for new buildings.
- Adjust pricing to demand. If there is no curbside or public garage parking available it means the price is too low. Consider, as several cities have done, on-demand price adjustment.
- Enforce parking time limits. People should not be allowed to keep their cars parked in the same zone for more that the maximum time, even if they continue to pay. This will deter commuters from bringing their cars in each day.
- Eliminate “free” periods such as at lunch time, in the summer or on weekends. This would generate enough revenue to justify hiring additional meter maids.
- Gradually upgrade all the parking meters and ticketing machines to cashless units, requiring people to use electronic payment systems such as credit cards or smartphone apps. This way there is less maintenance, faster transactions and no cash collection costs.
- Finally, over time, automate the entire curbside parking system, installing sensors and electronic monitoring, and only bringing meter maids when necessary to issue a penalty. This way fewer meter maids could effectively handle bigger areas.
He accepts these measures would “likely ignite protests by residents and visitors alike”, but would reduce traffic and pollution and promote healthier, more sustainable modes of transport.
I took a rare trip into the centre of Milton Keynes recently—the central business and retail district of the town. Traffic was unbelievable, with cars backing up around roundabouts and along the town’s grid roads, mostly due to the number of vehicles circling for parking spots. MK has relatively few free spaces but it is evidently too cheap and too convenient for motorists to park. I hope that measures like those listed above could be introduced and extra funding given to the town’s substandard public transport network. The downside of living in a town designed for motorists (and shoppers) means this is unlikely.
I am less sure about measure 8 or, rather, the pressing need for it. Due to a current work project I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of cash. I don’t see any compelling reason why we should force large groups of people (particularly those who are older or poor) to suddenly adopt wireless payment systems—not yet, anyway. These will naturally replace cash-based machines and processes as the technology is more widely used and accepted across all other aspects of life. Not everyone uses contactless card payments yet, nor are they comfortable using SMS to pay for things, let alone using Apple Pay or similar services.
Two weeks ago, after nearly three decades of waiting, Barcelona urban designer Salvador Rueda finally saw the first “Superilla” (Superblock) installed in his city. The superblock faced some fierce opposition from unhappy residents and local businesses complaining about loss of curbside parking, and changes of bus stops and street direction. It was also criticized from within the city council as some council members from the opposition parties asked for it to be dismantled.
Superblocks are a straightforward concept. Take 9 square city blocks in a 3×3 grid. Currently, traffic flows all around and through these blocks. A superblock restricts all through traffic by implementing a one-way system within the superblock that’s used by local vehicles only. All other through traffic, freight and buses travel between superblocks, not between blocks:
(This is how I used to build cities in the original Sim City, by the way, although I’m not holding out any hope for greater recognition.)
One of the main aims is to help Barcelona meet the EU directive on air quality, but it also has the effect of reclaiming roads, parking bays and other space previously given over solely to cars: in short, non-places.
Rueda has faced opposition (some reasonable, some less so) from politicians and residents. If these hurdles can be overcome, more superblocks can be rolled out:
The superblocks offer similar and much broader benefits for a surprisingly cheap price tag. Implementing the first superblock took one weekend and €55,000 ($61,000). The city government has allocated €10 million to expand them to other areas of Barcelona over the next three years.
I’m a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?
It’s British lore: on escalators, you stand on the right and walk on the left. So why did the London Underground ask grumpy commuters to stand on both sides? And could it help avert a looming congestion crisis?
The following is a “photographic” gallery of fractal patterns found while exploring the planet with Google Earth. Each is provided with a KMZ file so the reader can explore the region for themselves. Readers are encouraged to submit their own discoveries for inclusion, credits will be included. Besides being examples of self similar fractals, they are often very beautiful structures … not an uncommon characteristic of fractal geometry.
The history, present and future of GIFs.
Collecting the explanatory labels on everything in the 1966-1968 Batman TV series.
For over 20 years Michael Wolf has been photographing Hong Kong. During that time he has captured the towering pastel facades of its high rise architecture in a vein similar to Thomas Struth or Andreas Gursky, but perhaps more interestingly he has delved into the hidden maze of the city’s back alleys. What he found and has faithfully documented, are the innumerable abstract urban still lifes seen throughout. All the city’s flotsam and jetsam, from clusters of gloves and clothes hangers, to networks of pipes and a full colour spectrum of plastic bags, are photographed in strange, but entirely happenstance arrangements.
I spent six months writing traffic-baiting articles about ‘nearly naked’ red carpet dresses and Hollywood bikini shots. Here is my dispatch from the dark side of online celeb journalism.
Academic journals have begun withholding the geographical locations of newly discovered species after poachers used the information in peer-reviewed papers to collect previously unknown lizards, frogs and snakes from the wild, the Guardian has learned.
But there’s one big downside to the The Economist: it’s a bear to read every week. Not because of the writing, which is crisp and engaging, but because of the volume. Each issue contains about 90 pages of densely packed 9-point type and few photos.
Here’s my 7-step system for reading The Economist every week.
This is endlessly fascinating:
On 1st December 2015 Transport for London (TfL) unveiled its new design bible, the Design Idiom. Though the name may sound grandiose, the goal is simple: create a document that captures the design aesthetic of the Underground, so that good design can help drive decision-making at London Underground.
“It’s all about bringing good design to the forefront of our thinking.” explains Mark Evers, Director of Customer Strategy at TfL. “Very simply, setting out the key principles that can help us deliver well-designed stations in the future, every time.”
“This Design Idiom is about taking that step back and making sure that in the future we are thinking far more holistically about the way we should be undertaking work on our stations.”
All readers are familiar with the sensation of falling into a book. By their very nature, books invite you to immerse yourself in the world they have constructed. When it comes to a book in another language, however, such immersion feels both familiar and alien. While reading Kokoro no mori, I felt like a seasoned explorer suddenly sent to scope out Mars: the process was the same, but everything else was totally different. I had to attune myself to the rhythms of another language, to slowly gather an instinct for its patterns and structures, its particular logic. After spending so long in comfortable, well-trod terrain, finding myself in a new one was intimidating, exhilarating, and mesmerizing, all at once.
I’m currently learning Italian and, a few weeks ago, I opened up La Gazzetta dello Sport. Big mistake. I could feel the motivation evaporating out of me. I can hardly imagine reading a novel in another language.
This is a wonderful paragraph:
This attitude toward science is widespread and can be found in both the resurgence of the popular television show Cosmos, as well as with popular websites like “I Fucking Love Science,” both of which exist in some form to produce questionably accurate infographics for social network sites. In terms of the latter, we are able to see the confusion: When my cousin posts a picture of a wild-looking insect from an exotic part of the world with the caption “I Fucking Love Science,” I am not sure what I am supposed to be celebrating. Is my cousin an enthusiast of the natural world? An advocate of empirical methodologies? Is his participation in a metaphysical polemic willing or unwitting? Either way, science did not give us the tap-dancing mating ritual of the rainbow spider, and it sure as hell is not the gatekeeper for my enjoyment of it.
Stories about burglaries and heists don’t often appeal to me. But using them as jumping off points to discuss city topology, that’s something else entirely:
These examples are not only fascinating on their own as infrastructural factoids or as urban esoterica: They are also evidence that the logic of the city of London is already a logic of secret connections and startling proximities. Putting this knowledge to work in order to access bank vaults or to plunder safe deposit boxes is thus, in some ways, just an everyday temptation encountered by living in England’s capital city—as if cutting holes through walls, or digging tunnels between buildings, is, perversely, one of the more efficient ways of moving through the city.
The fabric of London, then, is one defined by perforation: serendipitous adjacencies that allow for movement out of sight and across property lines, through walls, from one building to another. After all, in a city where you can open a door in the base of a statue and walk underground to an entirely other neighborhood, in a sense, why not dream of bank tunnels?
As California endures its worst drought in 1,200 years, residents of the Golden State are turning to extreme—and desperate—measures to quench their collective thirst. Sun-baked farmers are hiring “water witches” to divine underground water sources with forked branches, while a company called Rain on Request has pledged to end the drought by building electrical towers that would induce rainfall by ionizing the atmosphere. When California found itself in a similar parched position exactly 100 years ago, the city of San Diego did something that seems even more bizarre—it hired a rainmaker. The thing is, it might have worked. After Charles Mallory Hatfield began his work to wring water from the skies, San Diego experienced its wettest period in recorded history. So was the rain an act of God or an act of Hatfield?
A nice interactive look at how architects should consider sound in their plans. (This works on all devices but is best on a desktop with headphones.)
Word counts can be harmful to usability. Structured, user-centred, well researched content is all you need.
With the release of MBV’s Loveless, 1991 marked the high water mark for shoegaze before the music press turned its back with a nose-high snort of derision. Ben Cardew looks over the history of the genre and asks if its decline was simply because the music just got boring.
Last month I was in beautiful Berlin for the wonderful Beyond Tellerrand conference, where I had the opportunity to talk about style guide best practices and all that goes into creating and maintaining successful pattern libraries.