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✊🏙 Looking back at 2018; debate over social housing in UK; Bay Area exodus; Aussie transport; Amazon HQ2; and more!

December 30 · Issue #66 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists!
2018 is almost over, so I took this issue to look back at some of the big issues that dominated the year in transportation and cities. I also looked at a controversy that erupted in the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve over an MP who lives in social housing.
In response to some comments on the last issue, I changed the link color to make it more legible.
I sincerely hope you enjoy receiving the newsletter every week, and a big thank you if you’ve shared it with friends and colleagues. Have a happy new year, and best wishes on a great 2019.

Looking back at 2018
I could pick out specific stories I’m watching and find fascinating from cities all over the world, from the MTA’s woes and coming L train shutdown in NYC to the transportation projects and fight against the Apple Store in Melbourne, but there are some broader storylines that stood out in the past year.
  1. The hype bubble burst for self-driving cars. By mid-2018, it was rare to hear anyone credibly predict that self-driving cars would be the future of transportation, in large part because of the fatal Uber accident in March. However, near the end of the year even Waymo admitted they’d never be able to drive in all conditions. Quite a reversal.
  2. The rise of micromobility. While self-driving vehicles declined, electric scooters and bikes seemed to rise to fill the void. In the United States, scooters have really captured people’s attention and have forced a necessary debate about whether cars should continue to dominate cities; while in Europe, e-bikes seem to be becoming much more popular as the automobile alternative. It will be interesting to watch where this goes in 2019.
  3. The techlash and its urban implications. In 2018, people seem to be approaching their breaking point with the major US tech companies. Facebook is the target of the most anger, but Amazon and Google are up there too, and the others also haven’t been spared. For urbanists, this meant greater opposition to Amazon’s working conditions and its HQ2 process, while for Google it’s coalescing into a movement against its smart-city efforts, including Sidewalk Toronto and Intersection (LinkNYC, InLinkUK, etc.). The opposition to Amazon’s HQ2 has only begun, while Sidewalk Labs is facing numerous setbacks in Toronto.
  4. Changing debate on climate policy. For too long, climate policy has been narrowly defined as carbon tax or cap-and-trade, with neither making much headway in North America. However, with the surge in popularity for a Green New Deal and the gilets jaunes in France, the conversation is changing to recognize that a) market signals are not going to solve climate change on their own and we need mass investment to transition toward a truly sustainable way of living, and b) the transition needs to be equitable — the costs can’t be placed on the backs of the poorest, but instead must be funded through higher taxes on the richest people in society. The release of the UN IPCC 1.5ºC report seems to have set the stage for a more vigorous push for action than we’ve seen in years — and hopefully progress is made in 2019.
Emma Vigeland
.@Ocasio2018’s #GreenNewDeal has redefined what’s politically possible.

Two years ago, Obama wouldn’t even try for a carbon tax. Now, the #2 Senate Republican is advocating for it as an alternative to the GND.

Bold progressivism shifts the goalposts. Democrats, take notes.
Who is social housing for?
Too often, people feel that social housing is poor housing (or housing for the poor). But is this accurate, and is it what social housing should be?
In the United Kingdom, Labour MP Kate Osamor was attacked on Christmas Eve by left-leaning tabloid the Mirror for living in social housing, despite earning £77,000. The conception of social housing used for the attack was that it should only be a place for poor people, but Osamor, and many on the left who defended her, championed a different notion of social housing.
Osamor has lived in her house for thirty years, and the notion that she should be ejected because she now earns a good salary doesn’t make sense. As Dawn Foster writes for Jacobin: “Housing should be a human right, and the right to long-term stability in your tenure should be defended at all costs.” This is the approach taken in Vienna, where 62% of residents live in social housing, and it may be a model from which many other cities can learn if they can get over the paralyzing policy-capture of neoliberalism.
However, it’s not just people earning good salaries who are having trouble holding onto their social housing in the United Kingdom. Nye Jones wrote for the Guardian this week about how often attempts at placemaking are simply gentrification by another name as tenants are forced out of social housing, but rarely make it back into their homes.
Gaz Weetman
The Boy’s received a Crossrail train and I’ve told him that, with a heavy heart, it can’t be opened until at least 2020, possibly later.
Other great reads
🇰🇵🇰🇷 North and South Korea are celebrating a new rail line they’re not yet allowed to build because of international sanctions
🌉 “Leaving the Bay Area is the best thing you can do right now, if you have a dream.” On the growing exodus of people priced out of San Francisco.
🌍 African cities are embracing green tech to be ready for the future
🇳🇴 Norway leads the world on per-capita electric vehicle sales, but incentives are slowly being rolled back “to make the personal car in general an endangered species”
🇦🇺 New data on Australian transportation gives insight on mode share, emissions, and costs with plenty of great graphs. Daniel Bowen also has some data specific to Melbourne.
🇳🇿 New Zealand government funding Auckland to Hamilton commuter rail
🏥 A rollback of environmental regulations by the Trump administration is causing health problems across the United States
📈 After Amazon’s HQ2 announcement in NYC, interest in Long Island City real estate has boomed. Developers are benefiting, but are local people?
💰 Bids for Amazon’s HQ2 show cities offered private trains, a university to train Amazon workers, dedicated city staff to handle requests, and more
🎬 In certain types of film, the city becomes a character. Christopher Moloney takes photos of film scenes where they were filmed.
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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