Did you see the news this week about Bill Gates investing in a smart city project in Arizona that seemed to be plastered across every news outlet? As you may have expected, it was too good to be true, which, honestly, is probably for the better. While smart cities may sound attractive on paper, the smart city projects that have so far been pursued have been underwhelming at best and troubling at worst. If you want a critical assessment of smart cities, I would recommend Adam Greenfield’s Against the smart city.
Driverless cars play a big role in the smart city dream, and Uber’s $1 billion purchase of 24,000 self-driving vehicles from Volvo this week pushes us further in that direction. However, there’s good reason to be wary about the seemingly inevitable self-driving future. Issue 9
has more on the problems with Uber, issue 7
looks at how the company is trying to replace public transit, and issue 2
has a number of articles looking at the move away from personal vehicles toward alternative modes of transportation.
One of these modes of transit is the subway, and one of the subway systems that has clearly been struggling for a long time is that of New York City. Given it seems to have reached a crisis point this year, the New York Times published an investigation into how the network got this way, and points the finger at political interference, funding cuts, and prioritization of vanity projects by state and city governments instead of focusing on basic maintenance and network improvements. If there’s one article in this issue that’s a must-read, it’s that one.
However, while New York City is having some major transit problems, a low-cost transit pilot in Toronto is making a major difference to the streetcar network running along one of the main downtown streets. Some more good news on the transit front!