The Atlantic Cities


What Running Out of Power in a Tesla on the Side of a Highway Taught Me About the Road Trip of Tomorrow

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April 29, 2014
Charging fast and breaking down in the early days of the electric roadtrip

It's 209 miles from the parking lot of a Chili's in Barstow, California, where we are, to the parking lot of a Carl's Jr. in Kingman, Arizona, where we need to go. I'm in a rented Tesla Model S, a sleek, battery-powered electric vehicle, with a travel companion. We're just about fully charged, and the car estimates it can travel 247 miles before we need more juice. That's a buffer of 38 miles, which should be more than enough to reach Kingman. We'll soon realize it isn't.

Don't Hide Cell Phone Antennas, Embrace Them

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July 2, 2012
Calling for better designed telecommunications infrastructure.

The mobile phone in your pocket or purse is part of a vast communications system that is mostly beyond our vision, much like the internet. But as journalist Andrew Blum explains in his new book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, the bits and blogs of the seemingly wireless internet still travel to us on hard infrastructure and get stored in physical places. Similarly, the voices and texts and data that we regularly zip back and forth on our cell phones travel as radio waves we can't see and are connected through fiber optic cables buried beneath our feet.

The Community Television

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June 29, 2012
A street-facing television becomes a public amenity in baseball-loving Michigan.

There's a bar in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, where, instead of a window, there's a huge flat screen television. And instead of pointing in toward the barstools and indoor patrons, the screen faces out onto the street toward the bar's sidewalk patio seating and, by default, everyone else who happens to be nearby.

The Convoluted Path to Ending Los Angeles's Mural Ban

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March 22, 2012
How the city is working with artists to revise its rules about murals, art and advertising.

Once regarded as the mural capital of the world, Los Angeles in recent years has lost a good deal of its street art cred. Decades of loose regulation on signs and murals led to some creative law-skirting by outdoor advertising firms, bringing about a string of lawsuits and rule changes – and more lawsuits and more rule changes. The eventual result was an all-out moratorium on new murals.

City officials are now trying to welcome mural artists back with a proposed new ordinance. But this regulation battle still has to deal with the particularly pesky monkey on its back.

L.A.'s Unofficial Late Night Bike Marathon

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March 19, 2012
Bicyclists take advantage of empty streets closed ahead of the L.A. Marathon for a late night ride.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 18, Los Angeles was preparing itself for flooded streets. Rains were expected this night and the morning to come, but the city was more concerned with the 23,000 people who would soon be competing in the 27th annual L.A. Marathon. Five hours before the official start of the race, parking enforcement trucks trolled the city streets to tow away the last remaining cars in the race path.

The Odd Existence of Point Roberts, Washington

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February 17, 2012
Inside the peninsular tip of Canada that's actually America.

Wandering Google Maps can reveal magical geographies. When preparing for a recent first-time trip to Vancouver, I started zooming in and out and around the area to see what the surroundings are like. That was how I first learned of the existence of Point Roberts, Washington.

Exit Interview: Brent Toderian, Vancouver's Ousted Planning Director

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February 13, 2012
Examining his impact on a city after being let go.

For a guy whose name has lately been splashed all over the local media after being fired from his role as planning director of the city of Vancouver, Brent Toderian is eager to talk up his city. We met to talk and tour the city about a week after the news became official that Toderian’s contract had been ended “without cause,” a high profile change in city administration that has left some urbanist-types worried about the city’s future (and some developers in a state of relief or even celebration).

As Canada's First Nations Start Developing Their Land, Is Sprawl Inevitable?

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February 9, 2012
How Canadian First Nations gaining development rights may impact the country's suburban landscape.

The temperature’s dipping toward zero on the Celsius side and the fog is settling down to the ground in the vast rural area of Tsawwassen, British Columbia, about 20 miles south of Vancouver, close to the edge of the Strait of Georgia.

Creating ‘The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America’ ... In Southern California

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January 26, 2012
Long Beach, CA, makes a big investment in bicycle infrastructure.

There have been numerous studies that show how adding a new lane to a freeway or road has the opposite effect than what was intended. Rather than easing congestion (which it does only briefly), the new lane merely creates more room for more cars, and quickily induces even more congestion. This same principle applies to bicycle traffic, though in a slightly different way. Few cities – and even fewer American cities – struggle with bike traffic congestion. Rather, what more and more cities find themselves struggling with is a lack of bike traffic. They want more bicyclists on their streets.

Frank Gehry on City Building

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January 9, 2012
Excerpts from a Q&A with the architect.

Last summer, I was commissioned by Wallpaper magazine to interview architect Frank Gehry. The occasion was the magazine’s 15th anniversary, and part of the idea behind the interview was to look at how Gehry’s career has changed over the last 15 years. His most famous work, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, opened (that’s right!) 15 years ago.