5 bold urban design projects that made cities more fun, clean, and accessible in 2019

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Cities can get rid of cars—and build urban ski slopes.

You may think the only changes to cities have been negative ones, and yes, urban areas have certainly seen increased traffic and heightened housing problems, but plenty of places have also debuted new features that aim to make a positive impact. Whether adapting to climate change, trying to be more inclusive to underserved populations, or updating their infrastructure with new technology, cities around the world are serving as laboratories to test bold ideas.

Here’s a look at some of the most fun and interesting urban innovations of 2019, proving that some cities are already in the future and are using their corners of the world to make our planet a little bit better.

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Cities declare war on cars as more auto bans stop traffic

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New York City fired the latest salvo in the war against automobiles Wednesday.

 The City Council passed a $1.7 billion plan that will fundamentally change how the citizens of the Big Apple bike, bus, and walk through Manhattan, Queen, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. The five boroughs in the next five years will see the building of 250 miles of protected bike lanes, 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes and create additional pedestrian plazas.

Two weeks ago, San Francisco unveiled a $604 million project to ban cars from their busiest thoroughfare, Market Street, where a half-million pedestrians walk on what is one of the most dangerous streets for traffic accidents, executive director of Walk San Francisco Jodie Medeiros recently told Curbed San Francisco

“It’s a war on cars, number one, bottom line,” Car Coach and automotive industry expert Lauren Fix told FOX Business. “It’s what’s called a road diet, restricting roads to force people to use mass transit, which is horrible! It’s filthy, never not on time, not in the U.S. at least, and it’s not safe. The city allows pan handlers and drug addicts to sleep on the trains and beg for money. I’ll take an Uber or a cab before I take public transportation.”

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Envisioning and designing a floating future

 

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A prototype deployed in San Francisco Bay may signal what’s to come: floating buildings, or whole communities, built to withstand sea-level rise.

ON AN August day that is brutally hot by San Francisco’s foggy standards, Margaret Ikeda and Evan Jones, architecture faculty at the California College of the Arts (CCA), are on one of the campus’ back lots to present a vision of the future — though at first glance, the object they’re showing off doesn’t look like much. It’s white, roughly heart-shaped, and about the size of a sedan.

As a prototype for what the underside of a floating building — or possibly a whole floating community — might look like, however, it represents years of imagination, research, design, and testing. It also represents the hopeful vision of Ikeda, Jones, and their CCA colleague Adam Marcus, who together developed the concept with an eye toward a future of flooding amid steadily rising seas — particularly for the 10 percent of the world’s population that lives in low-lying coastal areas.

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Digital twins could form the “end game” for optimum smart city design

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Digital twinning technology can transform how cities are designed, monitored and managed

Research finds that urban digital twinning and city modelling technology is having a transformative effect on how cities are designed, monitored, and managed.

Urban modelling and digital twins, in particular, will form the “end game” of the smart cities journey to optimised design and the ultra-efficient operation of entire cities, according to ABI Research.

Its research findings reveal that the installed base of urban digital twin and city modelling deployments will rise from a handful to more than 500 by 2025.

The global tech market advisory firm said the technology is helping to transform how cities are designed, monitored, and managed and optimising the holistic performance of cities across verticals in terms of energy management, mobility, resilience, sustainability, and economic growth.

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For the struggling legacy transit systems, new mobility options present challenges and opportunities

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Despite decades of ridership and revenue growth, the country’s busiest transit systems have struggled in recent years both at the turnstile and in the farebox, even as operating costs and unmet capital needs continue to grow. Metropolitan transit agencies serving New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, Boston and San Francisco, the country’s five largest systems, have all seen ridership declines in each of the last three years, and only the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) saw revenues increase, according to financial disclosures.

Some of the decline can be attributed to service quality. But these systems are also challenged by competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, bike-share programs and the ever-polarizing electric scooter phenomenon.

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The rural America death spiral

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Many of the nation’s current pathologies are taking a heavy toll on the majority-white population living in rural America, which was severely impacted by the opioid crisis and has dealt with falling populations, job losses and rising suicide rates.

Why it matters: The malaise and discontent that President Trump has tapped into goes beyond the racism we’ve seen over the past few weeks and includes anger at a changing world and frustration at dwindling opportunities close to home. These trends are further entrenching the rural-urban schism that came to light in the 2016 election.

The big picture: Political and economic power is shifting to the cities, and 20% of the population — 46 million people — is being left behind in the middle of America. These communities face increasingly difficult barriers to education, wealth and health.

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City planners eye self-driving vehicles to correct mistakes of the 20th-century auto

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Autonomous cars could cut traffic and pollution — or make them worse, planners say

 The Los Angeles City Council last year approved a $4.9-billion contract to design, build and operate an automated people mover at Los Angeles International Airport. The elevated system will have driverless electric trains that carry passengers between terminals, a transportation center and the Metro light-rail system. It is expected to be operational in 2023. (Los Angeles World Airports/AP)

As self-driving vehicles begin to transform the way people get around, urban planners around the country are beginning to think about how they will remake cities and change the way we live.

Not since the Model T replaced the horse and buggy have transportation and cities faced such an extensive transformation. Many planners say they see an opportunity to prevent — and correct — the 20th-century mistakes of the auto’s reign: congestion, pollution, sprawl and roads designed to move vehicles rather than people.

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MbS goes Elon Musk on steroids: Seeks flying cars, electric dinosaurs, robot maids, & glowing sand for Barren Saudi desert

 

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In northwest Saudi Arabia, where most people see a barren wasteland, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has envisioned the future, and according to the Wall Street Journal, it is something straight out of an Elon Musk wet dream, complete with flying taxis, robot maids, robot dinosaurs, robot martial arts, endless booze and glow-in-the-dark sand, among other things.

Perhaps MbS has been following Elon Musk’s Twitter account a little too closely. Or perhaps he has joined him in a microdosing regimen. Regardless, MbS has hatched a $500 billion plan to cover 10,000 square miles of this desert to attract the “world’s greatest minds and best talents” to the world’s best paying jobs in the world’s most livable city.

A true modern day, pardon, future Shangri-La.

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Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs unveils its high-tech ‘city-within-a-city’ plan for Toronto

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Sidewalk Labs says it will spend $1.3 billion on the project in the hopes of spurring $38 billion in private sector investment by 2040

 Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s smart city subsidiary, released its massive plan Monday to transform a slice of Toronto’s waterfront into a high-tech utopia. Eighteen months in the making and clocking in at 1,524 pages, the plan represents Alphabet’s first, high-stakes effort to realize Alphabet CEO Larry Page’s long-held dream of a city within a city to experiment with innovations like self-driving cars, public Wi-Fi, new health care delivery solutions, and other city planning advances that modern technology makes possible.

Previously, Sidewalk Labs called it “a neighborhood built from the internet up.” But on Monday, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff went a step further to describe it as “the most innovative district in the world.”

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How Stockholm is leading the way for smart cities

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‘Being smart is about working in a smarter way with different partners and empowering citizens’

Stockholm is one of the world’s most connected cities, and a beacon for innovators and international talent. We are also a forward-looking city, leading the environmental and smart city agendas. By 2040, we have the ambition to be both carbon neutral and the smartest city in the world.

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A new look at autonomous-vehicle infrastructure

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What infrastructure improvements will promote the growth of autonomous vehicles while simultaneously encouraging shared ridership?

Imagine a future in which fleets of autonomous buses and shuttles effortlessly navigate through city streets to their designated stops. Ridesharing services dispatch shared autonomous vehicles (AVs) to pick up multiple passengers traveling along similar routes. Robo-taxis drop off passengers at subway stops for the next legs of their trips. Some traditional car owners decide that they no longer need personal vehicles because shared-mobility AVs fulfill their needs. Road congestion drops because there are fewer vehicles.

Now imagine an alternative future in which everyone who once owned a traditional car instead has an AV. Many people without licenses also purchase AVs for their personal use, even though they haven’t had a car for years or never owned one. Passenger-miles traveled increase by 25 percent.1 AVs circle while waiting for their owners to finish shopping or running errands if no parking spaces are available, or else they run a variety of errands, ranging from delivering groceries to picking up dry cleaning, themselves. City streets become even more gridlocked.

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How electric and driverless vehicles will change building design

 

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The world’s first affordable automobile had a dramatic impact on residential design. On October 1, 1908, the first Model T Ford was built in Detroit. Unlike horses, most people could afford to have their own private car and keep it at their home. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford built some 15 million Model T cars.

Moving on from horses and carriages, for over a century homes and apartments have been designed to cater for private car ownership where drivers are human, and vehicles are powered by petrol or diesel.

As people began driving their own private cars, residential property design changed to provide a place to keep the vehicles (garages), and commercial venues had to accommodate individuals leaving their vehicles parked, instead of being dropped off by a carriage that immediately moved on (carparks).

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