✊🏙 Showing love for buses; Vancouver transit booming; Musk misleads customers; Push documentary; New Zealand; California; Cuba; & more!

Issue 83

Hey urbanists,

Plenty of bus love this week as U.K. Labour announced plans to invest in the bus network if they win the next election and Vancouver posted great new transit figures. Elon Musk is also in the news for making big promises on autonomous Teslas that we know he won’t follow through on.

Plus, there’s a lot on New Zealand this week, the international Green New Deal sounds pretty essential, and I highly recommend both Daniel Denvir’s interview with a Communist mayor in Chile and the trailer at the bottom for a new doc about housing financialization.

The switch to Substack will likely happen next week as I didn’t have time to get everything ready with all the end-of-semester work I’ve had.

Have a great week!

— Paris


We all ❤️ buses

I think it’s fair to say that buses, for all the benefits they provide, don’t get nearly the attention they deserve — and I’m guilty of that too. Buses are the backbone of a great transit system and the workhorses that move people in cities large and small around the world.

Buses are on my mind because Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K. Labour leader, announced that if his party forms government they’ll reverse the Conservative cuts to 3,000 bus routes across the country at a cost of £1.3 billion. In the UK, 4.36 billion bus journeys are taken every year and bus users generate £64 billion in economic output and spend £27 billion per year on shopping and socializing made possible by bus accessibility.

Bus services in the U.K. were privatized in 1986 under Margaret Thatcherand have been on a steady course of decline ever since, and just as there’s big support for renationalizing the rails, people would also support having buses brought back under public ownership. James Moore argues in the Independent that drivers should be made to pay more in order to fund the expansion of buses.

Buses weren’t just in the news in the U.K. though. Vancouver, where more than 50% of trips are on foot, bike, or transit, unveiled a new plan to get to two-thirds by 2030 and buses are a huge part of it: transit ridership was up 7.1% in 2018, and buses beat the trend with 8% growth. In the past week, high gas prices and transit ridership have been the biggest stories in the city, and CBC’s Justin McElroy explained how they’re related. Remember Vancouver doesn’t have Uber, and as the province debates legalizing ride hailing, I’m worried about what will happen to transit in future.

In New York City, despite changes to the L Train plan, the 14th Street busway will move forward as part of an 18-month experiment and Andy Byford played an important role in that plan. Buses are now more popular than cars for morning commutes to the city center in Auckland, NZ, but drivers keep getting in the bus lanes. Los Angeles may be using cellphone data to inform a redesigned bus network, and Victoria, BC passed a proposal to make buses free.

Elon Musk won’t deliver yet again

Oh, Elon. I feel exhausted just writing his name. The Tesla CEO and one of the most dishonest people in tech held an event to announce that, actually, self-driving Teslas will be ready by the end of 2019 and by the end of 2020 more than a million “robotaxis” could take over the streets. Where to start?

I wrote a quick reaction earlier this week on how there’s no way he actually made the progress he claims, and telling people Teslas can drive themselves will put more drivers at risk. His timeline is completely out of step with the rest of the industry, which admitted the limitations of self-driving tech after the fatal Uber crash in March 2018. Andrew J. Hawkinswrote for The Verge about how Musk’s rejection of LiDAR and HD mapping flies in the face of the industry and Sasha Lekach put together a number of critical responses by others working on autonomous vehicles.

Musk claimed Tesla would be able to achieve what every other company cannot in such a short timeline because of a new AI chip, but, again, a lot of experts were quick to note that a chip alone can’t do everything Musk is promising. And The Verge’s James Vincent reminded us Musk said Full Self-Driving would be ready in 2016 and that a Tesla would autonomously drive across the U.S. by the end of 2017 — neither actually happened.

Around the world

🎥 Push pulls the curtain off the global financialization of housing, how it’s hurting residents, and hollowing out cities. Listen to an interview with the director and UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farhasee it if you’re in Toronto this week, and watch the trailer at the end of this newsletter.

Transit

🇹🇷 Istanbul’s new metro line below the Bosporus will link Europe & Asia

🛑 “Transportation experts say that if Uber grabs a big chunk of [public transit’s] market cities would grind to a halt, as there would literally be no space to move on streets.”

🇩🇪 Berlin is expanding transit, but is it really building what it needs?

Bikes and scooters

🚲 Cycling in Auckland is up 8.3% over the past year, and weekdays accounted for nearly all the increases in March

🇺🇸 Five U.S. cities are expanding bike share to underserved communities

🗺 Volunteers makes the best bike maps

Cars and roads

🏥 Air pollution has a much bigger effect on children’s health than predicted before the research chronicled in new book “Choked”

🇻🇳 Grab expected to dominate once it monopolized ride hailing in Vietnam, but local competition emerged and new regulations are being drafted

🇭🇰 Hong Kong is reviving plans for road pricing

☠️ Los Angeles committed to Vision Zero 3.5 years ago. Fatal car crashes are up 32% and more people have died in cars than from guns.

Trains

💰 How did California mess up its high-speed rail project so badly? By relying on consultants for pretty much everything from day one.

🚅 Texas Central’s shinkansen plans facing new roadblocks from Republican legislators and opponents trying to take away eminent domain

🇬🇧 Virgin Trains wants to ban standing on UK trains and drop flexible tickets

Climate change

☀️ From Bill McKibben’s new book: “each degree Fahrenheit we warm the planet increases the number of lightning strikes by 7 percent, and once fires get going in our hot, dry new world, they are all but impossible to fight.”

🚗 “Every new structured parking space is a 30 year commitment to undermine climate action goals.”

🏞 To avoid warming of 1.5ºC, half of all land will need to be left in its natural state by 2030

Inequality

🌍 Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler propose an International Green New Deal that “would redistribute resources to rehabilitate overexploited regions, protect against rising sea levels, and guarantee a decent standard of living to all climate refugees.”

💵 New research on raising the minimum wage provides more evidence of the benefits for low-income workers

🌎 “The difference between the richest and poorest countries in the world is some 25% wider than it would be in a world without global warming.”

Housing

🌆 NYC zoning loophole lets luxury skyscapers to build taller by not counting unoccupied floors. Ex: ¼ of 432 Park Ave’s 88 floors have no homes.

🏘 Scott Wiener’s Bill 50 to do significant upzoning in California has been merged with Bill 4 to allow subdividing of single-family homes into apartments. Is the end of single-family zoning coming?

📈 “The bottom 10% of the income distribution has seen the steepest rise in costs since 1980, while the top 25% of earners have actually see a decline in housing costs”

🇯🇵 13.6% of homes in Japan are abandoned as the population shrinks

Other great reads

🇨🇱 Daniel Denvir spoke to the Communist mayor of Recoleta, Chile about governing locally from the left; increasing access to health and education; and fostering community through public space

🇮🇱🇵🇸 Andrew Ross’s new book “Stone Men” explains how Palestinian labor was and remains essential to construction in Israel

🇳🇿 Citizens and migrants alike are flocking to New Zealand’s small towns to escape the high housing costs of the three major cities

🔈 Poor neighborhoods experience the most noise pollution and it’s been shown to be bad for people’s health

🇨🇺 In 1958, Cuba had 511 cinemas; 130 in Havana alone. Carolina Sandretto went to photograph them and found every building was “completely different.”

By Paris: “Uber is convenient for city commuters — but bad for cities” (NBC News) and “Should Pickering airport be built? No.” (Toronto Star)

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