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July 2012

At Work And At Play, How Cities Stack Up

There is increasing awareness of cities as a defining trait of humanity and their importance to our health, economy and the environment. Here, some basic nuts and bolts about cities and the people who live, drive, work and play in them. {…}

Motorists To Urban Planners: Stay In Your Lane

by FRANKLYN CATER | NPR

Cities and cars share a conflicted relationship these days. Environmental concerns, growing traffic congestion and an urban design philosophy that favors foot traffic are driving many cities to try to reduce the number of cars on the road. In cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and Boston, some people go so far as to claim there is a “war on cars.”

That’s a phrase that has popped up around the country as cities spend more transportation dollars on transit; add streetcars, bus and bike lanes; raise parking rates; install “traffic calming” measures; and increase traffic enforcement with cameras. Advocates of these changes say they give people more options and make cities safer. But some motorists feel like they’re under attack.

Heated Rhetoric: In Washington, D.C., where 9th Street NW meets I Street NW it’s a one-way street with three lanes of traffic. The right lane is labeled with giant letters on the pavement: BUS ONLY. The bus lane is among changes in recent years in Washington and other places that are making room for other forms of transportation, not just cars. It’s a source of tension with some drivers, especially cab drivers, who are often stuck in congested street lanes with empty bus lanes right alongside them. {…}

Can Chicagoans Design The Perfect Transit App?

On July 9th, over 300 excited Chicagoans crammed into the Logan Square office of George and Sara Aye, the founders of a design agency focused on social change called Greater Good Studio. Crowds of developers, politicians, designers, and neighborhood friends mingled, wearing special stickers: “Hi, My Name Is _____. And I ♥ the CTA because _____.”

The mob was there to celebrate the launch of Designing Chicago, an unusual Kickstarter campaign that (if successful) will leverage the power of the city’s fiercely proud citizenship to design the next generation of transit app.

“Chicago is a hotbed of civic tech,” explains George, who spent seven years at Ideo before taking a job as lead designer at the Chicago Transit Authority. “We’ve got an amazing system, real-time data, and an active tech community. All we needed to do was put it all together.” The Ayes want to change the way citizens and designers engage in civic government. Designing Chicago will be a testing ground for their ideas. If funded, the duo will spend the next year leading a team of thousands as they gather data, propose ideas, and develop the groundwork for a transit app that will unite the city’s various systems of public transportation. “Since Rahm’s arrival, there’s been this hunger for everyone involved in local government,” he adds. “It’s like a switch has been flicked.” {…}

 

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