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Alex Laskey: How behavioral science can lower your energy bill

Alex Laskey, TED

What’s a proven way to lower your energy costs? Would you believe: learning what your neighbor pays. Alex Laskey shows how a quirk of human behavior can make us all better, wiser energy users, with lower bills to prove it.

Alex Laskey helps power companies to help their customers cut down — using data analysis, marketing and a pinch of psychology…
(June 2013)


The Death and Life of Chicago

Ben Austen, New York Times
On a 100-degree day last summer, on Chicago’s southernmost edge, Willie Fleming, who goes by J. R. (“It stands for Just Righteousness”), crept up to an abandoned ranch house shrouded in overgrown weeds. The overwhelmingly poor and black neighborhood sits beside a 150-acre, 1,500-unit public-housing complex and is about as far — literally and figuratively — from the Loop as you can get and still be in Chicago…

J. R. told the couple about the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the group he founded in 2009 with Toussaint Losier, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Chicago and a fellow housing activist. At 40, J. R. possesses the softening bulk of a former running back — he was all-state as a high-school sophomore. A skunklike streak of white runs up the center of his ringleted black dreadlocks. In the past year, he said, the Anti-Eviction Campaign freed up 20 abandoned properties, fixing up the buildings and moving “home-less people into the people-less homes.”…
(29 May 2013)


‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff’

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Here is a short promotional video for The Power of Just Doing Stuff which is published next week.


(6 June 2013)


Where will all the traffic go?

Chris Jagers, Medium.com
Interstate highways running through dense city centers strangle the potential for those cities to flourish. The highways are falling apart anyway; let’s tear them down. The timing is perfect.

The most loved cities in the world — like Paris, London, New York, San Francisco — are walkable, safe, and have wide range of services, parks and other amenities in close range to each other. They are “congested” in a good way. Younger americans (millennials), young professionals, and even affluent retirees are increasingly moving to more vibrant downtown areas to attain a more walkable life.

At the same time, America’s postwar highway infrastructure is crumbling and cities are faced with a hefty repair bill they can’t afford. This is a huge opportunity for many cities — like Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans, Louisville, and Seattle — to do something great…

Whenever the general public hears about a proposal to remove part of a inner-city highway, they part into two initial camps. A minority immediately understand the benefit and historical precedents for removing portions of these highways. However, the majority of people initially support the status quo and cry out, “OH GOD, WHERE WILL ALL THAT TRAFFIC GO!” Because of this fear, many cities end up reinforcing and expanding highways, which makes the traffic worse. This is called “induced demand.” When a highway becomes bigger, it draws in more traffic.

The frustrating part is that we know what happens to the traffic. We have tons of historical examples for this kind of transformation including San Francisco, New York, Portland, Milwaukee and even cities abroad like Madrid and Seoul.

San Francisco: Embarcadero
• Previously carried 100,000 cars per day.
• Damaged in ’89 Loma Prieta earthquake
• Removed 1.2 miles
• Vehicular traffic dropped in half
• New trolley line carries 20,000 per day
• Land value up 300%
• 54% increase in housing compared to 31% citywide
• 23% increase in jobs compared to 5.5% citywide
• Now considering extending the tear-out of I-280…

Seoul, Korea: Cheonggyecheon
One of the more famous international examples because the busy central highway was hiding the natural river running through the city.

• Removed 8.5 miles of elevated freeway and resurfaced buried stream
• Cost $281 million or $33 million/mile
• Number of vehicles in area dropped 43% afterwards
• 50,000 pedestrians visit park each day and 250,000 on weekends
• Reduced carcinogenic airborne particulate matter 21%
• Reduced summer temperatures 8 degrees Fahrenheit
• Added 113,000 jobs along corridor
• Long-term benefits expected to exceed $25 billion…

If your city faces this debate, start fighting and help to educate your peers, particularly around the affected areas…
(30 May 2013)