✊🏙 Speaker wants NYC to control subway, Airbnb buys hotel-booking service, AVs won’t happen, Musk redefines ‘self-driving,’ ocean heatwaves, & more!





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March 10 · Issue #76 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
NYC’s Speaker is actually putting forth the kind of vision the mayor is unable to muster, and Airbnb is moving closer to becoming a hotel company.
Plus, some great reads on how VW thinks autonomous vehicles aren’t gonna happen, Elon Musk is changing the definition of “full self-driving,” Bird is becoming a platform company, the ocean experiences heatwaves, Canada’s new Senate building is beautiful, and don’t use Uber.
Have a great week!

NYC speaker has a better vision than the mayor
Apologies if you’re fed up with hearing about New York City, but the vision for the future of transportation in the city put forward by Council Speaker Corey Johnson this past week is worthy of attention.
As you may remember, last week Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for congestion pricing and for handing the MTA to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Johnson’s proposal could not be more different.
He wants the city to take over buses and subways through a new agency called Big Apple Transit. In order to “break the car culture,” Johnson calls for 50 miles of new bike lanes and 30 miles of new bus lanes every year, signal priority for all bus routes by 2030, and the pedestrianization of some roads. Compared with de Blasio’s focus on driving — including a call for more free parking spaces for cops and firefighters — it’s a refreshing vision.
Johnson told council members, “We have been living in Robert Moses’s New York for almost a century, and it is time to move on.” And while he may not be mayor, he will be running for the position in the next election.
Alon Levy broke down the good and bad of the transit side of Johnson’s proposals. It’s also worth noting that Lyft-owned Motivate launched e-bikes in NYC this week, and got criticism from some council members over the $2 premium it’s charging, potentially making them inaccessible to poorer residents. NYC may also prohibit stores from going cash-free on civil rights grounds.
Airbnb further embraces the hotel model
Airbnb acquired last-minute boutique and independent hotel-booking service HotelTonight. It’s being pitched as a way to reassure investors ahead of a 2020 IPO, and while both brands will continue operating separately, more boutique hotels from HotelTonight will be advertised on Airbnb.
This is another move by Airbnb to get closer to the traditional hotel industry. Remember, in 2017 the company announced it was going to have its own Airbnb-branded apartment buildings, which many joked was part of a pattern of tech companies inventing things that already exist: in this case, hotels. Of course, that hasn’t turned out so great for residents.
As the company continues to face pressure from cities for converting housing stock into short-term rentals, it will further embrace the traditional hotel industry.
Evgeny Morozov
In Europe, most ministries of “digitization” are actually ministries of “desperately hoping to catch up with Palo Alto.” They don’t do much other than copy and implement bad policies that make any alternative digital agenda impossible.
Around the world
🛑 VW says AVs “will never happen globally.” They’ll take minimum five more years, but even then will require the latest mobile infrastructure, HD digital maps, near perfect road markings, and good weather. Plus, the tech costs ~€50,000 per car, not including backup drivers and cloud computing.
☠️ Uber will escape criminal charges for the March 2018 death of Elaine Herzberg, but the NTSB’s investigation is ongoing
😬 After years of promising “full self-driving” capabilities, Elon Musk is shifting the goal posts and redefining it as “a system that can handle most road conditions under the supervision of a human driver.”
🗞 Chicago Tribune blames people walking and texting for increase in pedestrian deaths. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Bikes and scooters
🛴 Bird’s plan to expand internationally at minimal cost? Be a platform and take a 20% cut. Launching first in New Zealand, Canada, and Latin America.
🇨🇴 In Medellin, 65 km of streets are closed to cars every Sunday as part of Ciclovia, giving the space back to pedestrians and cyclists
🛴 Lyft laid off workers in its bike division ahead of its IPO to focus on scooters, despite tipster saying it loses $23 per scooter ride
👩 Some women feel unsafe on transit. Agencies need more women to help address it.
🚌 The best way to increase transit ridership? Invest in better bus service.
🚇 Should eco-conscious politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez be expected to use transit?
🇵🇭 Construction has begun on Manila’s first subway line with 15 stations to be in operation by 2025
Bruce Schaller
Vancouver is poster child of transit-oriented growth sustained over many years. Carbon emissions down 5 percent even with rapid growth. 1/2. #SUMC19 https://t.co/QmfVe9DG5a
🇨🇳 China’s mass construction of superblocks after opening up its economy repeated the worst mistakes of Western planning
🇨🇦 Poor housing conditions in Canada’s First Nations communities are causing respiratory problems, and the government isn’t doing enough
💵 Rent control is gaining momentum across the United States
Climate change
🔥 Heatwaves are sweeping the ocean, killing sea life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest.” The number of heatwave days has tripled.
🇳🇴 Norway’s sovereign wealth fund plans to divest $7.5 billion of its $37 billion in oil and gas shares. Why not fully divest?
☀️ Southern Hemisphere is scorching as Chile and Argentina break temperature records and Australia’s summer was 2.1ºC above average
📈 Earth hit a new CO₂ record in February: 411.66 ppm. That’s really worrying because CO₂ levels don’t typically peak until May.
Quite a jump over the previous year.
Quite a jump over the previous year.
Urban struggles
💷 U.K. local councils sold 12,000 public spaces to raise £9.1 billion since 2014 after austerity-crazed Tories slashed funding by 60% since 2010
😮 Greenpeace analysis of 3,000 cities found nearly all those in Middle East, Africa, south Asia, and east Asia exceeded WHO’s air pollution levels
🇨🇳 As China’s economy shifts from industry to services, “rust belt” cities like Harbin are struggling to keep up with Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou
📸 Rue Crémieux residents in Paris want gates to keep Instagrammers out
Other great reads
🇨🇦 Canada’s Senate moved into Ottawa’s old train station while the Parliament buildings undergo renovations. It’s really nice.
🙂 Designing cities for deaf people can bring improvements for everyone
🇭🇰 Urban explorers HK Urbex sneak into and photograph buildings set for demolition to “preserve the memory of [Hong Kong]’s fading heritage
🎮 SimCity is 30 years old, so Jessica Roy asked planners how it inspired their career. Jarrett Walker outlined its outdated planning ideology.
A point-by-point critique of all the flaws in Elon Musk’s loop
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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