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Week End Wire: Albuquerque BRT, Microsoft Campus, and Scaffolding

Each week we write a piece with the most interesting articles of the week for Greater Greater Washington and syndicate it to Urban Milwaukee and Streets.mn.  We take the most clicked posts of the week from The Overhead Wire daily and write about the most interesting ones.  Follow beyond the crease to read up on this week’s most interesting pieces.

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A Bowl of Brown M&Ms

September 24, 2017

I’ve been meaning to post about Amazon but there’s been so many great pieces out there from every publication. I am not sure if I can do any of it justice with limited time but maybe I’ll try and make some maps of Dallas and Denver soon which I think have the upper hand based on quality of life and transportation access.

But the last few days it’s been kind of funny to watch some people who usually could care less about transit access and normally just sell out for roads start to wonder if they’ve been doing it all wrong…

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Solutions After the Storm

The digital ink is pouring out over what can be done about the flood damage resulting from more frequent rain events. And amid that chatter I probably should reiterate that perhaps not much can be done about 30-50 inches of rain in a few days, a number larger that even the wettest state’s annual rainfall numbers. But even writing that sentence worries me for a different reason.

My biggest worry from this result will be that people will write it off as a freak accident, a once in a million occurrence that isn’t likely to happen again. But if I’m reading the news correctly on Houston, three 500 year storms in three years means something definitely needs to be done to make sure that water isn’t a recurring threat. And let’s also be honest about something else. This incidence of more storms isn’t just happening in the United States as climate change knows no boundaries. Just ask Nigeria and Bangladesh whose coverage has likely been overshadowed by Harvey’s coverage.

I really want to focus on possible solutions because as Paul Krugman did this weekend and so many others have before him, there’s a simplistic scolding that is happening without pointing to any solutions outside of leave the wetlands to sop up water.  A few pieces have good information, but for the most part it feels like a waste of everyone’s time to reprint the same stuff about zoning over and over again. (more…)


It’s Not the Zoning, It’s the MUD

Note: If you can, give a bit of support to the folks in Houston.  I would recommend the Red Cross

I woke up this morning to the devastating news about Hurricane Harvey and the pummeling that Houston is taking from mother nature.  As a native Houstonian (annexation counts right?) we grew up with the threat of hurricanes and floods, the closest to me personally coming in 1994 when 20-30 inches of water dropped in a few days and led to a lot of homes in my part of the city getting flooded including those of close family friends.

So this morning on twitter Pro Publica, which wrote an amazing piece with the Texas Tribune recently about the dangers of potential flooding in Texas, was writing a twitter thread on the subject but said something rather odd.  They blamed a lot of things but one of them was Houston’s lack of zoning, saying how it caused a push for more sprawl.


Folks that read this blog probably know that Houston lacks “zoning” BUT it still has everything bad you need for zoning in the development code, it’s just not use based.

And all the discussion got me thinking about what does lead to sprawling land uses in Texas that gobble up precious natural riparian zones.  There are a lot of things, but lack of “zoning” is not one of them.  But I can think of two…

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The Right Frequency

I got an email from a colleague today asking me if there was “a national standard for transit frequency ranges”. Off the top of my head I wasn’t sure, though I know 15 minute headways are generally seen as “frequent” when it comes to the new mapping standard.

So I did a bit of digging and found a paper from the Transportation Research Board. I skimmed through and as I was looking at some of the charts stumbled upon the exact answer I was looking for…a short simple chart that laid out a pretty simple frequency standard for urban service.

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Transitioning The Overhead Wire

August 23, 2017

Each day for The Overhead Wire I put together a list of the articles I think are most interesting about transportation and urban planning in cities. It usually takes me about six hours to put these together, first searching for articles through methods I’ve developed over the last ten years, sorting them based on topics, then sending them to an intern who tags each piece in our database with topic and place tags.

This process takes a lot of time and effort and up until now readers have been able to get access through The Overhead Wire website and the RSS feed for free. But ultimately that isn’t sustainable going forward for website or me personally.

The subscription model has been great thus far for the email service but in order to build towards a longer term goal of more original deep reporting and multimedia such as videos and podcasts the subscriber base needs to grow.

It’s for these reasons that I’ll be doing two things; putting up a paywall on the site for the news collection and archive search function and changing the name of the newsletter and site to The Overhead Wire.  Original blog posts will remain available on the site.

The Blogger site where The Overhead Wire originated will be an archive of past posts and the new site will be the new place for news and analysis in addition to collected articles. Even long time readers and supporters have been confused about the difference between The Overhead Wire and The Overhead Wire so I’m consolidating to The Overhead Wire alone.

I’m making this decision to support the long term sustainability of this work. And that’s where I need your help.

In order to continue sharing the amazing things that are going on in cities around the world and create a better searchable link database while moving towards hiring writers to cover original topics, I’d love for you all who have been reading The Overhead Wire site and the RSS feed to sign up. By subscribing you’ll have access to the articles on the website, the archive of tagged items now numbering over 38,000, and the new RSS feed.

You also deserve the same 20% discount I’ve extended to all long term readers who have been with me since the start.

Thank you all for being such loyal friends and readers. Together I hope we can build something amazing and that you’ll play an integral part.

For the discount, use the code “Transition” for the annual or monthly membership.


Become a Patron of The Overhead Wire and The Overhead Wire Daily

June 15, 2015

Hey All!

Thanks for keeping up with The Overhead Wire and The Overhead Wire in your RSS feeds or by checking back in to the website.  Many of you are using the RSS instead of getting the daily email and that’s awesome.  As many of you know, for nine years I’ve put together The Overhead Wire Daily (formerly The Other Side of the Tracks) and for the last few months (and a year+ with Tanya Snyder) have been doing the Talking Headways Podcast at StreetsblogUSA.  In my previous job there was a bit of support for these projects however now that I’m working on my own as a consultant that isn’t as sustainable.  It probably wasn’t sustainable before but I love doing it and still do.

I’d like to keep collecting news and podcasting to share information with folks who love cities.  Hopefully I can also write more at The Overhead Wire and here.  My intern Kelly has been loading news and writing posts and I need to keep paying her for that great work and pay for some of my time creating these resources.

So if you’re so inclined I would really appreciate your support.  The Patreon is a monthly subscription donation that you choose.  It can range from cents to $150 a month.  That higher level will allow someone to co-host the podcast with me once a year.  $2 a month gets you a sticker with our loveable Overhead Wire logo on it.

You can support The Overhead Wire on Patreon here.

Folks have also been asking if they can give one time.  I’m more than happy to have your support that way too.  You can click on the PayPal Link Below.



So let’s keep this going.  Thanks so much for continued reading of our link collections and listening to the podcast.  We really appreciate it and I hope they help you as well.


The Next Big Tech Hub?

With the tech-driven growth that many places have seen, cities all over the US are trying to become the next big tech hub. Cities are trying to woo developers, incentivize start-up development, or become the next city with Google Fiber. However, Chattanooga, with its superfast fiber-optic broadband network, knows that high speed Internet isn’t the only thing that’s needed to attract tech companies. They’ve already seen economic growth from the higher broadband speeds, but they’re also trying to increase density and strategize ways to continue growing sustainably by diversifying development.

But while other cities strive to attract large tech companies, Mountain View is growing wary of them. Recently, the city denied a Google plan to build its new headquarters there, despite Google offering $240 million in community benefits for the development rights. Instead, Mountain View awarded LinkedIn the rights to develop in North Bayshore, in order to avoid becoming dependent on one big company.

There is some reason to their fears. Silicon Valley’s rapid growth has transformed nearby cities, and it’s spilling over. Demand for housing is high, and it’s driving up rents. The existing infrastructure is nowhere near sufficient to handle the volume of users, resulting in traffic congestion and constant transit woes. Bay Area cities have grown rapidly, and there is definite backlash. Even cities in the East Bay have seen dramatic and rapid development. Many cities located near BART stations have seen an influx of housing and retail development.

One developer, Lennar, is counting on the continued spillover of tech workers into neighboring cities. They’ve bought an 11-acre chunk of land in Fremont that they intend to develop into 2200 houses, apartments and offices. This is in addition to two other large housing developments that Lennar is intending to build in San Francisco. Other developers have followed suit and bought parcels of land, albeit smaller. While these developments will take over a decade to complete, demand is high, and still growing.


Building Livable Cities for Our Aging Population

May 11, 2015

Cities, for the most part, are built for the young and the mobile. For the elderly, cities can be hostile environments. Walk signals don’t last long enough for them to make it through the crosswalk, pavements are uneven, and lighting is insufficient. This is an urgent problem that will need to be addressed. By 2030, two-thirds of the world will live in cities, and in developed areas, as many as one in four people will be over the age of 60. The World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities program sets out to counteract this very problem. Currently, 258 cities have signed up and vowed to become more “age-friendly.”

But as our population ages, what exactly can we do to improve the livability for seniors? For cities like Philadelphia, where one in seven people is over 65, the problem will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later. While the US tends to focus on Social Security and Medicare as big issues for the elderly, one of the biggest problems seniors face is the lack of affordable and accessible housing. Philadelphia has adopted zoning changes so that accessory dwelling units are easier to build. These units can allow the elderly to live in the accessory units while renting out their home for extra income, or letting their family live in their home as caregivers.

Another phenomenon occurring in cities where the elderly population is growing is NORCs, or naturally occurring retirement communities. In some neighborhoods, the senior population may have strong ties to the community and attachment to their homes. As a result, they tend to stay in place rather than move to a smaller home in a better climate, and the community will have a higher number of senior citizens. As communities like this occur more often, the neighborhoods will have to change to adapt to the needs of its residents: better transit, accessible buildings, and pedestrian-friendly streets.

The AARP recently created a livability index that may help measure a community’s suitability for seniors. The index scores neighborhoods in seven different categories on a scale from 1 to 100: housing, transportation, environment, health, engagement, opportunity, and neighborhood. It’s not perfect, but it may help cities improve in areas where they are lacking, and become more livable for their elderly residents.



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