Michigan’s first bus rapid transit line launches today in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, home to Michigan's first bus rapid transit line. (Ian Freimuth via Flickr)

Grand Rapids, home to Michigan’s first bus rapid transit line. (Ian Freimuth via Flickr)

Michigan‘s first bus rapid transit line launches this week, whisking passengers from downtown Grand Rapids through the city’s “Medical Mile” and south suburbs—a 9.6-mile journey that used to take 45 minutes will now be only a 27-minute commute, reported mlive.com.

Continue reading after the jump.

Scientists say Beijing will be covered in a cloud of air pollution for 16 more years

City Terrain, International
Friday, August 22, 2014
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Forbidden City in the Smog (John Chandler/Flickr)

Forbidden City in the Smog (John Chandler/Flickr)

The air in Beijing, China is dirty, and a new report suggests it won’t be getting cleaner any time soon. Beijing residents received the grim news from the Beijing Municipal Research Institute of Environmental Protection regarding the city’s air pollution levels. Following studies done by the institute, researcher Pan Tao has estimated the return of safe air pollution levels in 2030. The World Health Organization has stated in the past that the concentration of PM2.5, particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less per cubic meter, should not exceed 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2013, however, the level of PM2.5 in Beijing measured 89.5 micrograms per meter.

Construction finally underway on Detroit’s 3.3-mile-long M-1 rail line

The 80-foot, 3,000-pound rails that will become the M1 Rail track have begun to arrive in Detroit. (Courtesy image - M1 Rail)

The 80-foot, 3,000-pound rails that will become the M1 Rail track have begun to arrive in Detroit. (Courtesy M1 Rail)

After years of planning, Detroit‘s M-1 Rail Line took an important step into physical reality this week, as piles of 80-foot-long, 3,000-pound rails arrived on construction sites that will build the 3.3 mile streetcar line by the end of 2016. Read More

Redevelopment projects piling up along the Los Angeles River

View of the new Marsh Park (SMMC Archives)

View of the Marsh Park expansion (SMMC Archives)

Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to secure funding for its planned $1 billion restoration of the Los Angeles River, projects along the waterway’s banks are sprouting up regularly, including parks, cafes, trails, and even new buildings. The latest, reported KCET, is the Elysian Valley Marsh Park, a three-acre landscape expansion on what was once an auto body complex in LA’s Elysian Valley neighborhood.

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Chicago Placemaking Festival Aims to teach Old Places New Tricks

Art, City Terrain, Midwest, Urbanism
Friday, August 15, 2014
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(Metropolitan Planning Council)

(Metropolitan Planning Council)

In a few short years, the term placemaking has migrated from wonky urban planning circles to neighborhoods across the country—that communities come together around public space is no groundbreaking observation, but when successful the idea can be revolutionary on a local scale.

So hopes Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, who this weekend will sponsor “Old Place New Tricks,” a bid to “activate” neighborhoods from Englewood to Ravenswood with public space interventions that range from a “healthy eating happy hour” to “Selfie Sunday.”

More info after the jump.

Pictorial> New photos illuminate Cleveland’s “AHA!” festival of lights

“The Global Rainbow” in Cleveland by artist Yvette Mattern. (frank lanza)

“The Global Rainbow” in Cleveland by artist Yvette Mattern. (Frank Lanza)

Last week AN plugged an event that aimed to turn downtown Cleveland into a festival of lights. Sure enough, colorful projections flooded the walls of downtown cultural institutions while a massive rainbow arched over the city and iridescent discs of rainbow light saw curious Clevelanders clambering about.

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Van Alen Institute Launches Competition Seeking Land Reuse Strategies for New Orleans

(Courtesy Van Alen)

(Courtesy Van Alen)

Earlier this month, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, an international design competition that is hoping to attract fresh strategies for reusing the many vacant lots that dot New Orleans. The competition is seeking submissions from landscape designers, architects, planners, public policy wonks, and pretty much anybody in the business of shaping urban environments and is supported by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which owns more than 2,000 vacant lots.

There are somewhere around 30,000 empty lots and abandoned structures throughout New Orleans today, most of them left by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. As the 10-year anniversary of the storm approaches, Future Ground is looking to create design and policy strategies capable of adapting to changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape in New Orleans over the next half-century in an effort to turn these abandoned landscapes into lasting resources.

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New Queens Public Plaza Shows Public Space Doesn’t Take All That Much

Bliss Plaza. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

Bliss Plaza. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

A new public plaza in Sunnyside, Queens proves that creating inviting public space doesn’t require lots of money and a lengthy design process – especially in a crowded city like New York. That’s certainly the case with Bliss Plaza, a recently-opened plaza tucked underneath the tracks of the 7 train. Frankly, there’s not all that much to it – save for a new sidewalk, some planters, and a handful of bright bistro tables and chairs. But here’s what Bliss Plaza does have: People. And that’s the key.

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Remembering Doug Wright, the man who helped tear down highways in San Francisco and Portland

Destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway (SF Chronicle)

Destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway (SF Chronicle)

San Francisco’s deputy mayor for transportation—who played an integral role in getting the city to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake—passed away on July 30th. He was 68. After the earthquake struck the city, Wright convinced former San Francisco mayor, Art Agnos, to help lead the effort to remove the highway and replace it—not with another highway, but instead with a boulevard at street level.

Continue reading after the jump.

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing NYC to Lower Speed Limit to 25MPH

Cuomo signing the legislation. (Courtesy New York Governor's Office)

Cuomo signing the legislation. (Courtesy New York Governor’s Office)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that allows New York City to lower its default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25. The legislation, which is expected to go into effect within 90 days, is part of the city’s ongoing effort to reduce traffic fatalities. Specifically, reducing the city’s speed limit has been one of the central pieces of Mayor de Blasio‘s Vision Zero agenda. “This is another vital step toward making New York City streets safer for every family,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “Our Vision Zero initiative’s mission is to save lives, and that is precisely what this legislation accomplishes.” 

 

 

 

 

Slideshow> The Manhattan Tunnels of East Side Access

East Side Access underneath Manhattan.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

East Side Access underneath Manhattan. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

The MTA has released a new batch of images of the under-construction tunnels for its “East Side Access” project. For the uninitiated, East Side Access is the agency’s $10.8 billion plan to connect the Long Island Railroad with Grand Central Terminal. The project was initially scheduled to be completed by 2009, but, like so many large infrastructure projects, the East Side Access has been delayed. The project is now scheduled to open in 2023. All told, the project is expected to be $6.5 billion over budget.

Many more construction photos after the jump.

10,000 sunflowers help rehab a vacant lot in St. Louis

As part of Washington University's Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

As part of Washington University’s Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The project is called Sunflower+. It’s one of the winners of St. Louis’ inaugural “Sustainable Land Lab” competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future.

Continue reading after the jump.

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