✊🏙 Cities are going green; Australian election focused on climate; legal code subsidizes driving; Sidewalk Toronto; Notre Dame; & more

Issue 82

Hey urbanists,

Cities are leading the way to the sustainable future, Australia’s election is focusing on climate after six years of inaction, and Gregory Shill lays out all the ways the U.S. legal system subsidizes driving.

Plus, Andy Byford might quit in NYC, UC Davis recommends e-bike subsidies, Musk’s DC-Baltimore tunnel is a joke, Canada’s carbon tax (and its Liberal government) may be doomed, and U.S. store closures are already outpacing 2018.

Finally, a heads up: sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll be switching the newsletter platform I use to send Radical Urbanist from Revue to Substack. It should be a seamless transition, the newsletter will simply look a bit different when the change happens.

Have a great week!

— Paris

Cities leading the way

It should come as no surprise to anyone that as cities continue to grow, so too is their global clout. The international system may be structured around countries, but that hasn’t stopped cities from demanding a place at the table and working together on important initiatives. Climate has become a major point of urban collaboration, and this week Curbedprofiled eight climate ideas from cities around the world that their U.S. counterparts could learn from.

New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act, which has been labeled its own version of a Green New Deal and will force buildings to cut their emissions 40% by 2030, since they account for 70% of the city’s emissions. One of the bills in the package, the “Dirty Buildings Bill,” specifically targets buildings over 25,000 ft because even though those 50,000 buildings are only 2% of the total, they account for half of all emissions. Those buildings need to cut emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, and include Trump Tower, the Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center.

Further, the bill is estimated to create more than 20,000 direct construction jobs and another nearly 17,000 indirect jobs. A Brookings report on the national proposal similarly found that a GND would be a boon for construction and trades.

It’s also worth recognizing the degree of support there is for these kinds of policies, which would pair a green transition with jobs and investment in communities. A new poll shows 67% of Americans back getting to 100% renewable energy in ten years, while 66% of Canadians back a Green New Deal with higher taxes on corporations and the rich — only 61% backed it without the higher taxes.

And why not? Kate Aronoff makes a really good argument that a Green New Deal could make people a lot happier.

Australian election

Australians go to the polls on 18 May 2019. Labor has been leading in the two-party preferred vote for a while now, and the replacement of Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison as leader of the right-wing Liberalparty and prime minister in August hasn’t changed that. Anything could still happen, but even if Labor gets a majority in the lower house, it will still need to work with other parties in the Senate to get its agenda passed.

Climate is poised to be one of the central issues of the election as temperatures continue to rise and even traditional right-wing voters in rural Queensland aren’t sure they can keep backing the Liberal-National Coalition over its support for the coal industry. As a result, even seats once considered right-wing strongholds are at risk as the Adani coal mine has divided the parties and a water buyback scandal grows.

The Guardian has a breakdown of the three main parties’ policies. On climate, the Coalition’s policy is a joke; Labor wants to cut emissions 45% by 2030 by investing in renewables, battery storage, electric vehicles, and it floated the idea of high-speed rail; and the Greens may use their Senate clout to get Labor to adopt aspects of its more radical climate plan.

Labor is also pushing a major overhaul of how investors can make money off of housing, with changes to negative gearing and capital gains taxes. The Coalition is trying to make it sound scary to voters, but most people say any negative effect will be minor and it’s a necessary change in the long-term.

One final policy worth noting: Morrison and the Coalition are pitching a tax policy that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Trump tax cuts: the richest Australians would get a tax cut of A$77 billion over 10 years — blowing a massive hole in the national budget.

Around the world

Dr. Gregory Shill’s new article outlines all the ways that driving is subsidized by the legal code in the United States, from regulations that target fuel economy and ignore the source of up to 90% of toxic particulate emissions (which are still produced by electric vehicles) to how the failure to enforce laws protecting pedestrians is an admission that we’ve designed a system where some people must die. This is a fantastic recap.


Ⓜ️ Andy Byford, brought in to fix NYC’s transit system, is rumored to be on the verge of quitting over Andrew Cuomo’s interference

🇳🇿 Auckland’s City Rail Link is on track for service to begin in 2024, but its cost has jumped by NZ$1 billion

🚇 Paris will trial all-night service on six metro lines and three tram lines on certain weekends between September 2019 and March 2020

🚊 Canberra’s light-rail line is open to the public, Edinburgh’s tram line is getting extended, and Ottawa’s light rail can’t seem to catch a break


🛴 Dockless scooters outpace docked bikeshare in the U.S.

💵 UC Davis study shows e-bikes can replace car trips and recommends purchase subsidy to lower barriers to adoption

🚲 NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio shown evidence that e-bikes accounted for 0.8% of pedestrian injuries in 2018, but still says they’re a safety hazard

Cars and roads

🤦‍♀️ The environmental assessment on Elon Musk’s D.C. to Baltimoretunnel is out and, quite frankly, it’s a shitshow

🛣 Why do cities keep building so much vehicle infrastructure? It has a lot to do with the incentives built into federal and state laws.

📈 Uber and Lyft drivers have noticed surge pricing is being used more often ahead of the IPOs to charge riders more without benefiting drivers


🇨🇦 Canadian PM Trudeau’s pairing of climate action with pipelines is failing as his carbon tax is helping conservative provincial parties win elections. The carbon tax is a political failure and Green New Deal would be more effective (and popular).

🛢 Canada’s oilsands generate more emissions than whole of B.C. & Quebec

🔋 Renewable transition will require a lot of dirty mining, especially if we’re relying heavily on electric cars; every one needs 5-10 kg of cobalt

🇱🇧 Could climate change kill the last of Lebanon’s cedars?


Sidewalk Toronto “is a push to privatize every possible type of interaction or event in public space through data collection. To broker and mediate physical spaces through a digital layer.”

👩‍⚖️ Civil liberties group suing the governments of Toronto, Ontario, and Canada for letting Sidewalk Labs make decisions over citizens’ privacy

✊ Nashville plans to give Amazon $100 million in incentives for its new office complex. Libertarians and socialists are united in opposition.

🇲🇽 Activists in Mexico are trying to get a new road safety law passed as road traffic deaths are the leading killer of Mexicans aged 5 to 29

Other great reads

🛍 It’s only April, but U.S. retailers have already announced they’ll close 5,994 stores, exceeding the 5,854 announced in all of 2018

🇯🇵 Japanese town devastated by 2011 tsunami outlawed sprawl to build a vibrant town center

⛪️ What will it take to repair the Notre-Dame? Architects are floating ideas, including Norman Foster’s proposed glass roof and spire.

🗺 Can you guess the cities in these vintage travel posters?

✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!