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Car light trails in Sydney

Traffic congestion: is there a miracle cure? (Hint: it's not roads)

By Jake Whitehead, Queensland University of Technology / Published by The Conversation.

With our "infrastructure prime minister" and both sides of politics trumpeting the building of new roads to reduce congestion, you could forgive everyday Australians for believing that they might have a point. Let's simply build more roads, then there will be less traffic. Unfortunately, this story reads more like a children's fairytale than a visionary plan.

Many politicians have stood up with the ambition of "solving" road congestion by building a tunnel, highway or bridge. While they may be able to promote the initial time savings as proof of their success, the additional capacity created by this new infrastructure is filled relatively soon.

Fringe Dining on Rundle Street

How Adelaide revitalized itself through 'placemaking'

By Stephanie Johnston / Published by Citiscope.

ADELAIDE, Australia — Not long ago, this city on the South Australia coast was a 9-to-5 town, where restaurants catering to suburban commuters closed once lunch was served. As the latest UK edition of National Geographic Traveller magazine put it, residents "regarded their town as a wallflower, ignored by visitors who prefer the long-legged hotties in the eastern states."

But these days, Adelaide has a new energy flowing in its streets, both day and night. The same article calls Adelaide today "'sassy,' 'wicked-sexy' and "happ-a-NIN'." Adelaide made recent "top destinations" lists put together by The New York Times and Lonely Planet. In March, London's Sunday Times placed Adelaide number one on its list of the best places to live in the world.

Soundview Housing Projects, Bronx, New York City

Mixed income public housing: mixed outcomes, mixed-up concept

By Lawrence Vale and Shomon Shamsuddin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Published by The Conversation.

For decades, public housing stood as the most architecturally visible and politically stigmatized reminder of urban poverty in many American cities. Originally built to accommodate an upwardly mobile segment of the working poor, by the 1970s public housing had become a last-resort option for low-income elderly and the poorest of families. Critics blamed public housing for concentrating poverty, encouraging welfare dependency, increasing crime and violence, and contributing to urban disinvestment and decline.

Over the past 20 years, the United States federal government and local housing authorities have replaced hundreds of troubled public housing projects with mixed-income developments. Has it worked? It depends who you ask: scholars, elected officials, housing developers, and low-income residents continue to disagree. A key area of contention has to do with the term "mixed-income" – which, though widely used, is rarely defined.

  • Category: World
Trees alongside the Yarra River in Melbourne

Can Melbourne lower its temperature by 4 degrees?

By Neil McMahon / Published on Citiscope.

Melbourne, Australia — This city's strategy to save its urban landscape — and protect itself from the perils of climate change — was borne of patience. Followed by despair. Followed tragedy.

Patience, from waiting for more than a decade for an epic drought that began in the late 1990s to pass. Despair, from realizing that the water shortage was lasting beyond the city's ability to cope. Then tragedy, from a brutal heat wave in 2009 that brought wildfires and so many heat-related deaths that inaction became unthinkable.

Chinatown, NYC

Higher-density living can make us healthier, but not on its own

Written by Jennifer Kent, University of Sydney, and Michelle Daley, National Heart Foundation of Australia / Published on The Conversation.

In cities across the country, the promotion of higher residential densities in certain areas has become an orthodox part of urban planning. Consolidation, as opposed to sprawl, is seen as a way to accommodate the apparent inevitability of larger cities in a more sustainable, economical, and healthy way.

But the advantages are not always entirely clear-cut. There is still debate, for example, over whether high density automatically cuts greenhouse emissions and is generally more sustainable.

Robert Muggah: How to protect fast-growing cities from failing

Robert Muggah: How to protect fast-growing cities from failing

"Worldwide, violence is on the decline, but in the crowded cities of the global south — cities like Aleppo, Bamako and Caracas — violence is actually accelerating, fueled by the drug trade, mass unemployment and civil unrest."

In this TED Talk, security researcher Robert Muggah turns our attention toward these “fragile cities," super-fast-growing places where infrastructure is weak and government often ineffective. He shows us the four big risks we face, and offers a way to change course.

  • Category: World
Grand Central Station, New York

Hong Kong on the Hudson?

Written by Donald L Miller, Lafayette College / Published by The Conversation.

Good historians know that history rarely teaches clear lessons. When it does, we should heed them. In the 1920s, urban visionaries completely refashioned midtown Manhattan, making it the most modern and economically vibrant downtown in the world. Their work can serve as an inspiration and example for businessmen, city officials, and residents who are currently struggling to find ways to keep midtown – now an aging business district – the center of world capitalism, without destroying its historic character or creating impossible pedestrian and vehicular congestion.

So far, leaders of the 21st century campaign to remake Manhattan have paid little heed to what urban critic Lewis Mumford called “usable history." In 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a sweeping plan to rezone a 73-block area surrounding Grand Central Terminal, which would allow for the construction of super-size skyscrapers, some of them taller than the Chrysler Building. This would make New York more competitive with Hong Kong, Shanghai, and London in the fiercely contested battle to attract and retain businesses with global reach, Bloomberg argued.

  • Category: World
Pedestrians, San Francisco

To tackle inequalities, build health into all public policies

Written by Thilina Bandara, University of Saskatchewan / Published by The Conversation.

Many of today's public health issues – diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease – are strongly associated with social inequalities. Literature from across the world shows that gaps in income, employment, education and access to acute and preventative health care worsen health outcomes for disadvantaged populations. When the inequalities are avoidable and based on unjust distributions of resources, for example, it then becomes an issue of health inequity.

This means that public health professionals must address the factors that people are born into – where they grow, live and work – at a population level to alleviate health inequities. The World Health Organization points out that these conditions are "shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels."

  • Category: World

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