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Once Around the Web: Atlantic Cities

The Atlantic Cities covers urban design, transit, planning, jobs, housing, and lifestyles all over the globe and if you are reading this blog, you should probably be reading it as well. It’s a wealth of fun, interesting, and compelling stories about a wide range of urban issues. Here are a few recent stories that are especially fascinating. Click on the headline to read the whole story.

The Era of Pay-Per-Mile Driving Has Begun
In 1919, Oregon became the first state to implement a gas tax — a penny a gallon fee that was supposed to pay for new roads and maintain the muddy ones that already existed. This weekend the Oregon legislature passed a bill to replace the state’s gas tax program with a “pay per-mile road usage charge” often known as a vehicle-miles traveled (or VMT) tax. Drivers who make the switch will pay 1.5 cents for every mile they drive instead of 30 cents per gallon at the pump.

5 Minutes in the Life of a Sidewalk
Sidewalk image by  Jaak Kaevats.

The above visualization, created by interaction designer Jaak Kaevats, captures five minutes in the life of a narrow slice of streetscape in Tokyo. The pedestrians passing through it are plotted as if on a timeline.

Is Being Able to Walk Around Your City a Right?
The ability to walk from one place to another is one of humanity’s defining characteristics. Using our two feet to carry us about our business is one of the basic functions that our species was designed to fulfill. And yet in many parts of the world, pedestrians have become so marginalized that exercising performing this fundamental human operation has become life-threatening.

Do We Really Need ‘Sexy’ Mass Transit Vehicles?
BRT and light rail are often considered side-by-side when a city decides to enhance transit in a densely populated corridor or build an entirely new system for the metro region. To be sure, they have many similarities, including (when done right) exclusive lanes and attractive stations. Light rail proponents typically point to capacity and style as selling points, whereas BRT proponents often point to price.

How Walkability Shapes Political Activism
Brian B. Knudsen, a research associate at Urban Innovation Analysis  and Terry N. Clark of the University of Chicago have published a fascinating paper in the Urban Affairs Review, Walk and Be Moved: How Walking Builds Social Movements.” The study argues that engagement in political activism or social movements is shaped by walkability, density, the physical layout, and the unique experience of cities—”the ways in which an individual interacts with and makes use of urban environments, neighborhoods, and spaces.”

LEGO Model of the Day: Urban Density Gone Badphoto by Chris Edwards

One of the biggest debates among those who study urbanization is exactly what the limits are to density being a good thing. A group of LEGO builders recently finished a model that makes a strong case against urban density run amok.

Prepare to Waste Your Day With This Fascinating City Comparison Tool
The power of data to visually explain cities is magnified when you put a pair of maps side-by-side. The interactive tool is built around an extensive comparative mapping tool that allows you to compare population density, road congestion, and land use, among other data points.