National stories: Red bus lanes in San Francisco

Red-painted bus lanes in San Francisco have made streets safer, but some people aren’t happy about that. The idea of an American Main Street is sort of an overblown romanticization. And “smart cities” may not be that far in the future. In fact, they’re kind of already here. Check out what’s happening around the country in transportation, land use, and other related areas! 

Some say bus lanes’ success is proof of failure: San Francisco painted some of its bus lanes red in 2016, and according to data collected by a company called ZenDrive, the move has meant noticeable reductions in speeding, cell phone use, aggressive acceleration, and hard braking. While that’s good for anyone who wants to cut down on conflicts between cars and pedestrians, locals and businesses opposed to the changes feel that the basic truth is that there are fewer cars are on the street, which is exactly what they were worried about. (Curbed SF)

When we’re nostalgic for Main Street, we’re really pining for connectivity: Main street, according to writer Louis Hyman, is a myth. It’s an antiquated notion now only found in places with disposable income and gentrified neighborhoods. What people really want is opportunity and connections to job markets that aren’t just tech, which doesn’t have all that much to do with a centralized street running through town. (New York Times)

The smart city is here: Planning aficionados often talk about “smart cities,” places where infrastructure and communication systems reach a new level of integration and automation. For some, the idea is far off in the future. But really, the smart city is already here: just look at how we’ve individualized transit, how people use mobile phones and sensors that operate based on our exact location and what’s around us, how financial services that allow for high-tech bartering, and more. (

What autonomous vehicles could do for us: People are attaching a lot of hope to autonomous vehicles, but for them to make a positive impact, they’ll need to be less about individual ownership and more about moving groups of people efficiently. According to famed urbanist Peter Calthorpe and transportation planner Jerry Walters, pulling this off could mean better outcomes for pedestrians, cyclists, and cities in general. (Urban Land Institute)

Bringing back incremental development: Some of the best neighborhoods we can think of were built in small batches, and large tract housing has made development sprawling and impersonal. Developers are slowly re-learning how to do things piece by piece, which means more focus on smaller details.  (CNU)

Quote of the Week

“The worst horror production companies and the worst city planners tend to think of the high-ticket items as basic necessities of their craft: a mammoth highway overpass, a $24,000 prosthetic head to get that stabbing-a-dude-in-the-eye scene just right.”

– Kea Wilson in Strong Towns describing what low budget slasher films can teach us about building better cities.

Comment on this article