Category Archives: Blog

The Overhead Wire Daily | May 15th, 2024 | City Narratives

May 15, 2024

First before I share today’s thoughts, just wanted to let everyone know we passed 100,000!! links in the news archive. Since 2013 we’ve been collecting and tagging the links we share in the newsletter and now it is over 100,000 items tagged by topic and city in our archive that’s available to subscribers.

We’re working on a better access interface as the one there now isn’t the best if I’m honest, but the new one will be coming soon and is much much better. But I thought 100K was a number to celebrate as I guarantee you no other site or newsletter has shared this much information in cities and transportation. We’re so glad we can keep doing this for you all and look forward to sharing the updated archive soon.


I’ve always been a fan of the census since I started using data in college for GIS projects. While not perfect, it allowed more people to tell more in depth stories about places that really wasn’t available before without a ton of time and patience with a physical map.

That said, the Census Bureau could be in the wrong when it comes to counting population in legacy industrial cities in the Midwestern United States. The City of Detroit in particular is alleging that the census counting methodology in non decennial years subtracts population when homes are demolished which would undercount population as many of the demolished homes have sat empty for years. Additionally, dilapidated homes that are renovated and re-occupied (as seen on popular HGTV shows like Bargain Block) don’t count towards adding population either. There are other issues with the methodology but this undercount could have wide ranging impacts on not just on federal funding opportunities but also narratives.

I hadn’t thought about it much before but the stories we tell ourselves or that are told about places can often form into narratives if they are repeated long enough and sometimes they start to sink in and impact a place over the long term.  And if Detroit isn’t really shrinking and instead has been adding population, that changes the discussions of a place and how its perceived by potential businesses and residents. Here in San Francisco we know all about narratives.

But these narratives on the other side of the growth coin can be self fulfilling in other bad ways. A recent MPO vote to allocate $4B to a highway expansion in Austin shows how a narrative about growth and what is needed to supply it can become unchallengable. The only solution to many suburban and county officials is to build a bigger road rather than think deeper about growth and it’s impacts on quality of life and public health. While we really need to have a discussion about who represents regional interests, we might also benefit from talking through the narratives and actions that got us there in the first place.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

The Overhead Wire Daily | May 9th, 2024 | Changing Trajectories

May 9, 2024

An interesting paper about growth in big cities compares housing construction and prices between Texas and California. What researchers found is that housing construction costs are much cheaper as cities continue to sprawl, as California did up until the 90’s and Texas continues to do now, but once that is constrained either by distance to jobs and amenities or build out, construction of infill makes up for more units constructed. But that infill construction is also more expensive on a per unit basis.

The story the paper authors seem to be telling is that Texas and California aren’t really that different, it’s rather Texas is finally catching up to the constraints that California had already reached regardless of regulatory environment.

Another interesting finding is that areas now tend to ossify.  Before, land tended to transition from rural to suburban to more urban densities over time, but have now become fixed and don’t transition. People don’t like change, and it’s harder to change the suburban structure.

What this current housing crisis seems to be highlighting for me is that cities around the country are starting to come to limits on available land for cheaper housing and thus expanding supply is becoming harder. What this also tells me is that our transportation policies such as building and expanding highways to accommodate the demand for sprawl have even more diminishing returns than they did the first time around.

Today we released an Mpact podcast (back episodes here) with Tracy Hadden Loh discussing work Brookings has done mapping all activity centers in regions, not just downtowns, and what the pandemic has done to transit ridership. She noted the areas where work from home and transit ridership pre-pandemic are the highest were places that had longer commutes for workers getting into employment and activity centers.

We also released a Talking Headways podcast episode with Megan Kimble (full archive) discussing her book City Limits on highway fighters in Texas. TXDOT is spending tens of billions of dollars on highways in Austin and Houston to serve this symbiotic sprawling development pattern that’s dying out because of constraints discussed in the paper mentioned above. And in Dallas, they are fighting to change the calculus on transportation investment to create valuable infill rather than double down on a housing and transportation system that will slowly grind regional growth to a halt.

These two discussions in particular highlight that our transportation investments need to change in order to start seeing more returns. This may be why we’re starting to see more interest in high speed rail as faster connections will change the transportation access calculations once again. Interestingly enough, South Korea sees 6 high speed regional lines as a part of a national birth rate plan in this way. The land available a driveable distance from amenities for cheap housing is gone, and the infill is getting more expensive.

We probably don’t want a type of easily commodified single family sprawl again, so there are other changes we need to make to support lowering costs of infill and cracking open the amber that has so many areas stuck in time. But our discussions on this matter should evolve. Transit and 15 minute cities and accessibility need to be a part of that discussion. The question is whether people can see it happening and change directions.




For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 482: Highway Fighters in Texas

This week we’re joined by Megan Kimble to talk about her book City Limits: Infrastructure, Inequality, and the Future of America’s Highways. We chat about the folks fighting back against highways, the history behind building big roads, and what the future looks like for advocacy.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:


The Overhead Wire Daily | May 7th, 2024 | Environmental Accounting

May 7, 2024

First let me offer a super congrats to Elaine Clegg on getting nominated to the Amtrak Board! Very exciting.

Second, today a piece in Grist jumped out at me, especially after sharing yesterday’s article about a new way to measure GDP around health and happiness by Lloyd Alter. The Grist article discussed the use of natural capital by industries and a new report that asks whether industries would be profitable if they had to pay the full costs of what they used from the Earth. From the analysis, it turns out they don’t, to the tune of $7.3 trillion a year, a huge chunk of global GDP as it’s currently measured.

Of course this is a bit abstract, but it got me thinking about how much we don’t account for a lot of the deeper environmental impacts of transportation and city projects and makes me wonder what a true accounting of our consumption might look like on a more micro level than whole regional industries like coal or farming covered in the report.

As I found out when we chatted with Paula DiPerna for her book Pricing the Priceless, the head of the sportswear company Puma actually did this once, and found by creating an environmental profit and loss statement that the company was in the negative when it comes to natural resources needed to operate the company.

So then for a transportation profit and loss statement, what if we included true land consumption from sprawl and the impact of that to air quality and health outcomes? What if we included the loss of clean water from runoff mixed with motor oil or fine particulates. Or what if cars and trucks and bikes had to account for the ecological costs of plastic pollution or metals extraction? It would probably upend our whole system as we currently see it and thus probably looks pretty scary to anyone with money and power that could be remotely impacted.  But it might be an exercise worth doing, if only to understand how much value we’ve extracted from the natural world.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

The Overhead Wire Daily | May 2nd, 2024 | State Capacity

May 2, 2024

Back in August we shared a paper on state capacity that was written up in The American Prospect that basically said when transportation departments are looking to resurface roads, the places with more public sector capacity are likely to have more bids and lower construction costs. I thought at the time it’s something that likely can be extrapolated to capital projects for transit as well.

Fast forward to today and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has estimated that highway construction costs could reduce the impact of the IIJA (2021 infrastructure bill) by 40% if inflation remains high. Crude oil which is used to produce asphalt (which we did a really interesting podcast episode on) is one of the largest pressures BTS cites, but I really do wonder how much is lost to this capacity issue which the National Highway Construction Cost Index obviously doesn’t include.

As with the current discussions around inflation calculations and their seeming inability to measure how long term housing supply constraints are impacting the overall numbers, it would be interesting to see how much of this astronomical inflation in transportation construction is a lack of state capacity, something not measured by the cost indexing mechanism.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 481: Money is a Lot of Different Things Part 2

This week were sharing part 2 of our discussion with Jim Kumon. We chat about the challenges of development, how to crowdfund a building, coming to the end of an 80 year economic cycle, how the built environment is an outcome of how we structure capital, and how more information can make it harder to learn how new things.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Some websites of note:

Electric Housing

Incremental Development Alliance

Passive House Crowdfund

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:


The Overhead Wire Daily | May 1st, 2024 | Digital Public Utilities

One of the things we’ve been thinking about a lot is the idea of transportation infrastructure as a public utility. Now more than ever I believe streets and rights of way are public utilities considering the value of this urban space we use for human transportation and goods movement, water management, and electricity and internet provision. Giving it away for free has led to many perverse incentives including vehicles now roaming around without passengers and private vehicle storage consuming acres of public lands.

So back in 2019 we had the amazing Nate Berg write a piece for us and Moovel discussing the tug of war between private companies and public entities on transportation data, which Nate evolved out of some of my thinking about whether streets could be seen as a public utility. The discussion was heating up due to ride hailing and micromobility companies vying for space on city streets while collecting massive amounts of data. What they also did was move the discussion from the use of physical space to another digital dimension about data and ownership.

It’s interesting to me then that our conversation on digital data from mobility companies in urban spaces can also be extrapolated to mapping technology and companies such as Google, Apple, Baidu, and ESRI that have created powerful mapping and GIS tools that have evolved into their own public utilities parallel to physical rights of way and digital data created by mobility companies. The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society then asks whether we’ll see continued consolidation or monopolization in this space, or a new diverse set of companies and tools emerge from this mapping ecosystem that is becoming so vital not only to transportation, but the facilitation of information sharing and knowledge itself.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 480: Details of Development Reform in Minnesota Part 1

April 25, 2024

This week we’re joined by Jim Kumon, Principal at Electric Housing, to discuss his work as a developer and urban policy educator in the Twin Cities. We chat about his sustainable development project, what St. Paul learned from Minneapolis 2040 and how zoning reform and transportation intersect.

Some websites of note from this episode:

Electric Housing | Sundial Building | Incremental Development Alliance


To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is an AI generated unedited full transcript of the episode:


The Overhead Wire Daily | April 25, 2024 | Zombie VMT

A local group of advocates in San Francisco has launched a campaign for a ballot measure that would tax ride hailing companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Waymo to pay for more Muni service as city revenues suffer from the pandemic re-sort. A ballot measure for regional funding is expected to be sussed out and voted on in 2026 while some gap funding has been provided by the state.

The measure if passed would in theory raise up to $30M on ride hail use in the city and ropes in Waymo along with the usual suspects. One thing it got me thinking of as ride hailing and especially AV defenders started howling on social media was why such a measure should target ride hailing. And the answer to me at least is traffic congestion that slows down Muni buses, which has increased with the proliferation of ride hailing in the city. But since we won’t be doing any congestion pricing any time soon because of the impact of work from home, this might be a good proxy in theory.

Shared rides would be taxed less that individual rides but it also would have been nice if zombie VMT was included somehow and taxed even more. That’s hard to do because there’s no fare value to tax from but perhaps it could be done with all the Waymo vehicles driving around completely empty without a driver or passenger. They are taking up valuable city real estate similar to empty parked cars which in many cases at least pay a meter or a parking pass to use curb space.

But ultimately all of this could be avoided if we just allocated more street space to transit and moving people than moving cars. If the bus lines I took had lanes I might not mind as much being stuffed on the 22 next to an empty Waymo and more people would probably ride.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

The Overhead Wire Daily | April 17th, 2024 | Reallocating Money

April 19, 2024

After cancelling the 710 highway widening, LA Metro found itself with $743 million to spend elsewhere. A 35 person task force was put together and came up with a plan for spending the money on active transportation, transit, complete streets, safety and more.

I’ve been reading Megan Kimble’s book City Limits on Texas’ highway fights and I continue to think about how TXDOT could better spend the $85B it’s allocated to mostly highways over the next decade. Instead of widening three highways, taking taxable properties off the rolls, and doing more environmental and social harm, they could focus on community improvement and access projects. I can imagine that $85B would go a long way in doing some real good, but we’re not there yet.

It also doesn’t have to be just road projects re-imagined. After figuring that a second downtown route with a subway wasn’t going to be in the cards at this time, DART now has $1.3B to spend on other priorities. I love a good subway as much as the next person, but it might behoove us to think about how we can boost access during this massive pandemic induced urban realignment.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 479: Charging Up Transportation

April 17, 2024

This week we’re joined by Gabe Klein, Executive Director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. We chat about the Joint Office’s white paper focused on best practices and solutions for electric vehicle charging entitled: Community Charging: Emerging Multifamily, Curbside, and Multimodal Practices.

White Paper Link

The EV Charging Infrastructure Playbook – Link

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:


The Overhead Wire Daily | April 16th, 2024 | Insurance-aggedon

April 16, 2024

Piggybacking on yesterday’s item in the Premium newsletter on car insurance driving inflation, I stumbled across this piece on Twitter from November of last year discussing Prop 103 in California which regulates insurance rates. It’s interesting and long but perhaps worth the read if you’ve been itching to dive in on the topic and how it might be reformed.

But what it gets me thinking about how a lot of our problems aren’t getting solved perhaps because we are stuck in a negative feedback cycle that’s just pulling us in deeper. We’ve been hearing a lot about insurance rates going up on buildings and cars. Those increasing rates are in part causing inflation and some real estate market instability. And the land use patterns that we build focused on a transportation system that is car oriented also feed into this negative loop as we choose bigger more expensive vehicles which are of course more expensive to replace and build roads and make rules that enable more collisions than other countries.

We can talk about the same thing with housing. We’ve decided to build a lot of housing in 100 year flood zones or fire prone areas that are getting exposed by climate change. The high cost of housing overall brought on by regulations and a shortage of workers also in part due to high housing costs also makes insurance replacement if your house does get wiped out even harder.

And states and the federal government are sucked into this moral hazard as they back stop insurance that mainstream companies see the risks on and won’t take.

The spiral and seeming connections go on and I’ve been trying to think about how they all go together, but it’s probably a longer piece than the intro to a newsletter. At the moment I’m not sure how it gets fixed but maybe it starts with how we build cities and move around in them.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

Mondays 150: Housekeeping After a Drought

April 15, 2024

Happy Mondays!  This week on Mondays at The Overhead Wire we’re Han Solo again but we have a lot to catch up on.  We’re going over some of the news we didn’t get to when we were away in China for a month.  We cover LA’s spongy infrastructure, an idea to connect zoning reform to transportation funding, and the transition from governments incentivizing retail businesses to warehousing infrastructure.  Of course there’s more but listen in to hear everything we share.


The Overhead Wire Daily | April 11th, 2024 | Chicken and Egg

April 11, 2024

New research from RMIT Centre for Urban Research discusses how Melbourne hasn’t seen an equal increase in transportation investment compared to housing growth. An 88% increase in housing has only gotten a 5% increase in transport services.

I found this general idea and discussion really interesting because it reminded me of the chicken and egg debates we have about land use and transportation. If you build this line, more housing will come. Or if you build this housing, the city will build or bring you new transportation. Both of which are often used as arguments against building anything, housing or transportation.

Of course that’s one of the powerful ideas behind the bus network redesigns that have been happening around the country in that we can readjust service to places that need it, or have grown. At this moment in time, building new high capacity transit infrastructure can be difficult and expensive. But transportation costs are up everywhere and if we defer investments now, we’re making individuals pay for the increases.

In fact, vehicle insurance rates are up 22% and repair costs up 10% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest increase since 1976. Not to mention the average cost of a new personal vehicle is $48,000. With those increases, it’s increasingly important that cities invest in transit projects and service and promote sustainable mobility in all forms. Today’s piece in Vox about DC’s transit system show what’s possible on the transit side. Our recent discussions with Aaron Breetwor and Dan Sturges show what’s possible when we think outside of our usual boxes as well.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 478: Women’s Transportation Seminar

April 10, 2024

This week we’re joined by Sara Stickler, President and CEO of WTS International. We discuss how WTS highlights women’s expertise in transportation and how they create opportunities from mentorship to leadership and education. We also chat about some of their legislative priorities on workplace policy as well as some of the barriers women face in the field.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or find it in our archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:


The Overhead Wire Daily | April 10th, 2024 | Social Media Rage

It looks like most if not all subscribers got yesterday’s email after we had an issue with Microsoft Outlook delivery in the last few weeks. If you are missing some emails that you wanted to read the news from, let me know and I’ll forward them along. All the longer form intros are at The Overhead Wire blog too.

Still tying up a few loose ends but thanks for everyone’s help to get it fixed. If you ever have the feeling that you’re not getting the email, please let me know and I’ll try to do what I can to fix it. Or ask your email administrator to see if it’s getting caught in quarantine filters. As with this instance, that might be the case.

Thanks everyone for reading, I am super happy we get to keep doing this after 18 years and you all make that possible.


So with all that back end stuff out of the way, it actually makes this Tweet/podcast from The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson a bit more interesting to me today. The short explanation is that there are four dark laws of online engagement according to psychologist Jay Van Bavel: 1. Negativity bias drives headline clicks 2. Extreme opinions drive in-group sharing 3. Out-group animosity drives engagement 4. “Moral-emotional” language goes viral.

I was chatting with former DC and Chicago transport head Gabe Klein for a podcast we’ll release soon on his office’s work on electric vehicle charging infrastructure. He mentioned that news headlines on stories he’s been in lately discussing that work have been changed from positive to negative in just 24 hours just to get more engagement and eyes on an article. One headline he mentioned said the complete opposite of what the article did, but I guess that’s what drives people to subscribe to news sites or drives advertising revenue.

It also relates to the recent discussion of congestion pricing in New York City. The majority of public comments for the policy have been positive, but you wouldn’t have known about that from the media headlines or driving celebrities. In my news search, it always looked like a 80-20 negative split.

It can be frustrating to us here because we’re not going around creating a rage factory to get the policies we want. But it can also be a positive because even if we see a bunch of negative headlines, perhaps there’s always something good that can be found under the surface. Let’s keep digging.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

The Overhead Wire Daily | April 9th, 2024 | Public Safety Officers and Street Safety

April 9, 2024

Last week we posted a very popular piece about how fire departments should be rethinking how they approach safety to encompass more than just fire safety in buildings.  Since they are often the first responders in car collisions and calls about homelessness, their prescriptions for urban policy might change. This means thinking about what it means to have safer streets for everyone, not just themselves.

So I was struck by this thought again when I was reading the Texas Monthly piece on the new Mayor of Houston John Whitmire, who on a ride along with the chief of police just blindly listened to his safety musings on a recently completed road diet. The mayor didn’t bother asking who the safety improvements were for or why the police chief believed it made the street more dangerous in his mind.

I imagine this happens quite often. Public safety officials such as fire and police are held in high regard and often hold a lot of political sway. But we know from recent political actions they aren’t experts in street design or transportation policy.

Maybe that’s on us to help them understand the speeds that kill pedestrians on streets or how safe systems work. But it’s also frustrating that it doesn’t seem like they’ve even tried to learn. If I were them I might ask why more people were dying in collisions and why the US is so far behind other comparable countries in this regard. I’m certain we’ll get there eventually, but there’s a lot of work to do.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 477: Culture Change in Cleveland

April 3, 2024

This week we’re featuring a one to one conversation between Billy Terry, Executive Director of the National Transit Institute at Rutgers University, and India Birdsong Terry, General Manager and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. They discuss leadership, hiring, and culture change at Ohio’s largest transit agency.

This podcast was produced in partnership with Mpact. To find out more, visit

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:


Mondays 149: Dispatch from China

April 1, 2024

This week on Mondays at The Overhead Wire Jeff talks about his month long trip to China. Subways, multi-use paths, urbanism and more! We chat about Chinese mall culture, great food, and a really cool station design in Shenzhen.

To see some pictures from the trip visit our Instagram @theoverheadwire

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 476: Saving Transit from the Fiscal Cliff

March 27, 2024

This week on the Talking Headways Podcast we’re sharing a San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) forum on how a statewide coalition of transit advocates were able to organize a funding bridge to avert a fiscal cliff for transit operators in the state. The discussion led by SPUR’s Laura Tolkoff, shares how they did it and what’s next.

Featured guests include…

Laura Tolkoff / Interim Chief Policy Officer & Transportation Policy Director, SPUR  | Rebecca Long / Director, Legislation & Public Affairs, Bay Area Metro | Cyrus Hall / Independent Sustainable Transportation Advocate | Zack Deutsch-Gross / Policy Director, Transform CA | Raayan Mohtashemi / Legislative Aide, Office of California State Senator Scott Wiener | Monique Webster / Regional Government Affairs Manager, SFMTA | Adina Levin / Policy Director and Co-Founder, Seamless Bay Area


You can listen to this episode as always at Streetsblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode.


The Overhead Wire Daily | March 26th, 2024 | Congestion Pricing Ending Radio?

March 26, 2024

There have been a lot of items around residential sorting and how it impacts people’s politics, or conversely how people’s politics impacts sorting. Analysis of thousands of homes in South Florida found that political party differences are important in explaining neighborhood political segregation and choices.

This also seems like it can explain some of the transportation choices and policies that are favored as well. As found in the research noted above, Republicans often sort themselves into lower density areas. But that also means they often need to drive into areas of higher density or center cities for jobs or cultural activities. This would appear to influence why certain policy choices are not welcome including (de)congestion pricing and why more MPOs with suburban representation widen roads to facilitate those trips.

But here’s another interesting potential connection. The loss of radio listeners. AM radio in particular has been under threat from the electric car revolution as it’s harder to get a signal in the car. Politicians and activists from both parties have pushed car companies to remedy the issue for different reasons, some political, some safety driven.

Now policies that are likely to get people to make less car trips such as (de)congestion pricing are also seen as a loss for the radio industry since it is likely to reduce driving and thus radio listeners. Of course listeners can stream many radio stations, but drivers often listen over the air. As mentioned, audio has seen many disruptions before; 8 tracks to satellite radio and everything in between. A small percentage of those who access Manhattan drive so I don’t know if it will make a huge difference, but it’s always interesting to see what people worry about when policies are proposed or come into effect.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 475: Lessons from Quickbuild Street Projects

March 21, 2024

This week we’re joined by Heidi Simon, Director of Thriving Communities at Smart Growth America. Heidi talks about lessons learned from Complete Streets Leadership Academies as state and local officials and advocates work to create safer streets through quick build projects.

Find the report here.

Listen to this episode at Streetsblog USA or find it in our archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript: apologies for any spelling errors.


The Overhead Wire Daily | March 20th, 2024 | Public Utilities and Transport Funding

March 20, 2024

Two interesting items today about two problems that are related to electric vehicles in cities specifically, but also a wild idea below.

According to CNBC vehicle tires are a relatively slow growth and steady market, but with the coming wave of electric vehicles, business is expected to rise as tires for the heavier vehicles cost about 50% more and wear out 20% faster. This of course means more profits for them, but also particulate pollution and microplastics that are released onto streets and into storm drains if they can’t design a better tire.

The second item reports that San Francisco plans to deal with charging cables that cross over sidewalks and impede wheelchairs, strollers, and skateboards. In the city where many people don’t have a garage, charging cables have been seen crossing sidewalks on the ground and overhead through trees. The city will now launch a study to look at curbside public charging infrastructure to deal with the cable problem. I imagine this is a problem that many cities with higher densities and more apartments will need to confront if the inertia of our current transportation paradigm continues.

This does provide however another potential opportunity for cities fund transportation according to public policy goals. Shell just said it would have 200,000 charge points by 2030 and is phasing out some of it’s retail gas stations around the world. But if its easier to charge at home than go to the closest energy station, cities with management of curb resources are poised to be the retail point of purchase for electricity to power cars.

Then if cities or transportation agencies in cities were to act as a public utility that manages curbs and energy provision, the revenues generated from becoming a retail provider of electricity or even leasing valuable curb space could support active transportation spending, much in the same way electric companies supported early streetcar expansion.

The question then of course is what the long term policy goals might be for any profits from this endeavor. In Shenzhen last weekend, I heard that subsidies to support the transition to electric vehicles allow energy costs for a month of driving to just be $10 for a car that’s driven 6,000 miles a year. We should support vehicle electrification, but that seems excessive and supports too much driving for short trips. Instead we should focus on reducing VMT and increasing accessibility with funding of active transportation.

Of course this is just a wild idea, but I enjoy sharing them with people just in case someone can make it work. As of now we’re barrelling towards a future of more driving and increased emissions. The oceans are already warming more than scientists expected and we probably don’t have a lot of time, but we can hope.


For this intro post and more news in your inbox every morning, sign up for a two week free trial of The Overhead Wire Daily, our popular newsletter established in 2006.

Listen to the Talking Headways Podcast


…the first thing I read every morning is the newsletter to see what’s been out there. It’s great to have an aggregator that pulls everything together so nicely.

Joe Cortright, City Observatory

I think that the email newsletter that you do every morning is the best one that I get, and I get a lot of them.

Mary Newsom, The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

Really is the best daily urban newsletter out there.

Eric Jaffe, Editorial Director Sidewalk Labs


To Receive The Overhead Wire in Your Inbox Daily

Premium Daily Subscription

The Premium Daily Subscription is our most information packed offering, chock full of over 30 pieces of news every single day. Included are popular features such as the quote of the day and the most read article from the previous day. Also included is our weekly roundup for times when you are strapped for time but need to know what’s going on.

Premium Weekly Subscription

The Premium Weekly Subscription is for professionals constantly under a time crunch. We take the most read items from the week before and share them with subscribers along with more in depth analysis of a single popular topic.

Learn More and Subscribe

Video of the Day

Friends of The Overhead Wire

Back To Top

Welcome to The Overhead Wire

What Can We Help You Find?

Try Our Newsletter For Free