A Sidewalk Talk Q&A with Coord CEO Stephen Smyth.

This Sidewalk Talk Q&A is part of a series of conversations with leaders at Sidewalk Labs incubated and portfolio companies.

Some of us accept the need to do a little math when the check comes at a restaurant. Stephen Smyth does his math while he’s still eating.

Last summer, as New York City’s economy was reopening from the pandemic, Smyth and his family were having dinner at a curbside dining setup that had formerly been a parking space. So Smyth crunched some numbers as he chewed his food. …

A Sidewalk Talk Q&A with Cavnue CEO Tyler Duvall

Last year, SIP — a company spun out of Sidewalk Labs that’s focused on the future of infrastructure — launched Cavnue, whose mission is to build the world’s most advanced roads. This is the second in a series of three interviews with Cavnue leaders. You can see our interview with Cavnue CTO Jaime Waydo here.

Back when Tyler Duvall worked in the Department of Transportation he would confront the complex challenges facing our roads — from congestion to accessibility to safety — on a daily basis. Unfortunately, those big problems still exist today. “It’s not acceptable that 40,000 people…

Buffalo passed a parking reform in 2017 to reduce parking requirements for new developments. A new study finds that mixed-use projects have since created 53 percent fewer spaces than previously required. (Stocksy / Chelsea Victoria)

A sweeping zoning reform gave rise to mixed-use, transit-oriented projects with far less parking than they would have had before. But single-use developers showed few signs of change.

One of the most promising trends in urban planning is the push from a growing number of U.S. cities to reduce minimum parking requirements for new developments. As the name suggests, parking minimums require developers to build a certain amount of spaces, regardless of whether a community wants or needs them. The result is an excess of parking that can lead to more vehicle pollution, worsen traffic congestion, and drive up housing costs. In some cases, the steep cost of building parking prevents a project from moving forward at all.

In theory, ending parking requirements should provide developers with the…

Texas officials cast misleading blame on renewable energy sources for the recent power outages. The state has also introduced legislation prohibiting cities from banning natural gas. (Stocksy User Jeremy Pawlowski)

As more cities ban natural gas in new development, more states move to ban the bans.

The eyes of the energy world turned to Texas this week, as severe winter storms led to sweeping — and deadly — power outages across the state. Such a disaster might have inspired unity of purpose around improving energy infrastructure and reducing the carbon impact tied to extreme weather events. Instead, some state officials cast misleading blame on renewable energy sources and pushed for even greater reliance on fossil fuels.

Let’s hope Texas finds its way through this crisis very soon. But state-led attacks on green energy are likely here to stay — and not just in Texas. Across the…

A study of San Francisco residents found parking to be the “key factor” shaping transportation behavior, leading people to drive more than they otherwise would. (Stocksy User VISUALSPECTRUM)

New research offers an important lesson on how urban design shapes people’s behaviors.

Cities typically require developers to create a certain amount of parking for every new housing unit in a project. Space by space, this policy takes a toll on affordability. Parking is very expensive to build, so developers bundle these parking costs into the housing costs for all residents, whether or not households even want a parking space at all.

Some cities have finally started to move away from parking requirements, with Berkeley and Toronto being the most recent North American examples. But the policy remains entrenched in most local rulebooks — and in local minds. …

Uruk’s main settlement period spanned roughly 4000 to 1900 BC. At its peak, the city was home to tens of thousands of residents in just 1.5 square miles. (Wiki Commons)

At least three transformative ideas trace their origins back to the historic, once-thriving city of Uruk. But innovations must be wielded wisely.

From the very earliest settlements to the present day, people gathered in dense areas have used their collective ingenuity to manage the problems — and magnify the benefits — that uniquely arise from urban life. It’s a timeless truth: cities breed innovation.

Last year, I described the origins of urban innovation in the supersized village of Çatalhöyük, one of the earliest dense settlements to emerge in human history, dating back to 7400 BC. Çatalhöyük residents wanted to get the benefits of a large community (at that time, primarily food provision) without sacrificing all individuality. …

(Anna Waters / Flickr)

Research increasingly shows that local living wage laws help workers without harming jobs — and could potentially help create more equitable cities.

Any realistic path toward more equitable cities involves, among other things, higher wages for low-income workers. So it’s very encouraging to see that the economic relief package proposed by the new Biden-Harris administration features a $15 minimum wage as a core component. Even if that wage doesn’t make the final package — despite high popularity, it’s already getting political pushback — the conversation is bound to echo across City Halls.

Politics aside, there was a legitimate policy debate for a long time over whether the benefits of raising the minimum wage (income gains for individual workers) outweighed the downside (the…

(Suzanne Clements / Stocksy)

A Sidewalk Talk Q&A on energy cost burdens with researchers Constantine E. Kontokosta and Vincent J. Reina.

The challenge of affordability in cities typically focuses on housing and transportation costs, but utilities can also play a significant role. That’s especially true for lower-income households, which often struggle to pay a utility bill while providing other basic needs. The pursuit of more energy-efficient buildings shouldn’t come at the expense of affordability, nor should it undermine environmental justice.

A clearer picture of the role utilities play in urban affordability comes from a study recently published in the Journal of the American Planning Association. Analyzing data from five U.S. cities that passed new energy benchmarking laws (New York, Boston, Cambridge…

Protected bike lanes contributed to a cycling surge in parts of Lisbon. (Flickr / Miguel Barroso)

New studies of Lisbon and Toronto offer the latest evidence for the power of safe infrastructure to encourage more cycling in cities — and speak to the perils of relying on historical data.

Recent years have seen a surge in bicycle technology as transformative as anything since the penny-farthing gave way to the safety bike. Bike-share systems provide access to bikes without the troubles of parking or storage. Electric bikes boost the length of an acceptable ride far beyond what two tired legs might muster. Bike counters can help transportation agencies evaluate past upgrades and plan for future ones.

But for all these advances, it’s a humble bit of street design that still holds the key to unlocking more riders in cities: bike lanes that keep riders safely separated from cars. Two new…

(Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash)

A new study finds direct evidence that rental property managers effectively screen minority households into parts of a city exposed to greater pollution.

The wave of demonstrations for social justice and equality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been a reminder of just how far cities have to go to become truly inclusive — and that any work toward that future must address the structural discrimination that pervades too many aspects of urban life. Sometimes the destructive forms of discrimination are caught on tape, and rouse us to action. But there are less visible instances that happen every day, which are no less destructive.

A new study sheds light on a troubling example of housing discrimination that occurs on a daily…

Eric Jaffe

Editorial Director @sidewalklabs

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