Monthly Archive: April 2015
Milan 2015: there was something in the air in Milan this year. Furniture brands were launching fragrances while numerous independent designers were experimenting with scents (+ slideshow). (more…)
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
From New York to Seattle, Uber recently celebrated Earth Day with city-specific promotions such as discounts and competitions in which winners will receive free transit passes and free Uber rides. Meanwhile, from a less fuzzy, more battlefront angle, Uber’s suing the city of Houston. The on-demand-ride app company hopes to prevent the release of records revealing how many Uber drivers are licensed there and how the company operates in the state.
The Huffington Post reports that the records — journalists requested them, prompting the suit — would reveal how Uber “skirt regulations” that apply to typical taxi services, as the company revs up to move deeper into the Texas market and reach 27 million potential customers. Uber reps say releasing the records would give an advantage to competitors such as Lyft.
“Uber is a private company and as such, information about driver partners is considered confidential and proprietary,” Uber spokeswoman Debbee Hancock told HuffPost.
One of the journalists asking for the info counters: “Nobody is asking for profit margins or anything like that. It’s very basic information. There’s a public safety concern, in that the whole rationale for a city being able to regulate vehicles for hire is so the public can know who’s on the road.”
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the “sharing economy” noted that client trust in such services — or lack of it — is a major factor for companies who are chasing after business in what PwC predicts will be a $335 billion industry by 2025.
Uber’s legal team never rests. Both it and Lyft are facing separate trials in California over whether drivers should be considered contractors or employees.
soon to become a landmark, malmö live cultural center demonstrates contemporary scandinavian aesthetics, hoping to embody the spirit of the diverse city.
Dutch design firm OMA has been appointed to design a new hotel for the huge Amsterdam RAI exhibition and events complex. (more…)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal funding for the Metro in Washington, D.C., could get cut in half thanks to a new bill spearheaded by some Congressional Republicans via the House Appropriations Committee. Even though $150 million has been designated for Metro maintenance and development in the District since 2008, this latest move would allocate only $75 million, according to the Washington Post.
The proposed cut comes after a report showing a decline in ridership for the first time in 15 years was released last year by WMATA. The decline was attributed to an increase in telecommuting and fewer federal jobs. (New York’s MTA recently touted that its subway ridership numbers were at a 65-year high.)
The proposed bill would be in direct conflict with the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which promised $1.5 billion for the Metro over 10 years beginning in 2008. Until now, Republicans had not controlled both houses since PRIIA was initiated.
Some House members believe the cuts would be a disservice to the region’s transit riders.
“Providing anything less than the federal commitment of $150 million would jeopardize rider safety and the successful partnership with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to fund the purchase of new rail cars and vital safety improvements throughout the system,” eight House members said in a statement.
“It really feels like a betrayal of trust,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) told the Post. “It also is a failure to recognize that Metro is the nation’s transit system. How does Washington, D.C., the capital of the free world, run without a significant, sustained investment in Metro?”
consisting of two components, the ‘gogglepal’ device improves snow sport experiences, by collecting and displaying real time data, receiving messages, and providing navigation.
The post gogglepal brings universal heads-up display to snow goggles appea…
Victoria Miro are holding an exhibition of new work by Idris Khan in the artist’s fourth solo presentation with the gallery.
Lindsey Winston and her husband, Ray Mendez, wanted to establish roots in a family-oriented community rather than in the touristy one that their Vinegar Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, was becoming when they started looking for a home in 2009….
David Zwirner are holding the gallery’s first exhibition with Carol Bove. On view at their London location, it features recent works by the New York-based artist, known for her simple yet intricate assemblages of found and made objects.
This might be the perfect bed for a New York apartment.
White Cube São Paulo are holding an exhibition of recent work by Anselm Kiefer. The paintings in this exhibition explore themes of history, politics and landscape and, in particular, the vision of ‘The Morgenthau Plan’.
The four blocks that make up this house in Japan all feature different kinds of windows, designed by architect Kazuki Moroe to offer varying perspectives of a neighbouring Shinto shrine (+ slideshow). (more&hell…
Divvy bike-share station in Chicago (Photo by Steven Vance)
Chicago is the bike-share capital of America. Divvy, the city’s bike-sharing system, is adding 1,750 bikes to its fleet this spring, and expanding from 300 to 476 stations. By June, Montreal and New York City will still have more bikes on the ground, but Chicago can boast of being the home of the most bike-share stations and the largest service area of any single system in North America.
It’s an impressive mantle, especially since Divvy has navigated serious setbacks since its 2013 launch. Its Montreal-based equipment provider went bankrupt last year, delaying station expansion. But now, with good design, an inclusive ethic and sheer nerve, Divvy is on its way to serving 86.7 square miles of Chicago, or 38 percent of the city’s total area.
New stations are opening every day. A full 1.3 million people — 56 percent of Chicagoans — will live in neighborhoods with accessible bike-sharing by summer. The program will also add to the density of current stations for a total of 4,760 bikes across the city. Divvy’s success has even inspired the suburban communities of Oak Park and Evanston to join in. Plans are in the making to leverage state funding and university partners to link these outlying communities to the city by next spring: twelve in Oak Park, eight in Evanston and more stations in far city neighborhoods.
The Chicago experiment reveals how quality bike-share programs aren’t just about plunking wheels around town. It requires creative and strategic force. For Divvy, that comes with tech-savvy flair. Divvy announced in April that it will place bikes at the O’Hare and Midway airports that include cell phone charging outlets and video screens that guide users through tours of Chicago. In one elegant move, this will boost the practical appeal of Divvy bikes, plug the system into the city’s most significant transit hubs and encourage riders to interact with local neighborhoods.
Guests could try out a prototype of the new tech-oriented bike model during the recent awards night for the Divvy Data Challenge — itself an innovative program in which the bike-share system invites designers to create visualizations of its usage data. In the most recent contest, nearly 40 contenders submitted illustrations of usage patterns from 2013 and 2014 (3.2 million total rides). Winners in each category (Most Creative, Most Comprehensive, and so on) received a package that included Xbox One, Xbox Kinect, Windows Phone and other offerings. Matthew Shaxted and Shaun Jacobsen shared the prize for Best Overall Visualization. Shaxted created a 3D visualization that beautifully displays the flow between stations (see below). Jacobson’s project explored which was faster — bike-share or public transportation? He concluded that Divvy trips were in most cases faster than transit. That revelation — that Divvy could actually be more convenient than the train or bus — made headlines.
Technology and design isn’t by itself the secret to a quality bike-share. It must come with a commitment to equity. In December, a group of African-American cyclists in Chicago sent a letter to the city, urging it and the state to commit to improving bicycling conditions in predominantly black neighborhoods, especially on the South Side and West Side. Divvy’s current expansion is a gain for equity. More Chicagoans will have more access when the bike-share stretches north to Touhy Avenue in Rogers Park, 85th Street on the South Side, and west to Pulaski Road in Little Village and Avondale. Decisions on where the 176 new stations will go came not from top-down decision-makers, but from the public. Among the neighborhoods that will see their first stations are Woodlawn, Washington Park, Canaryville and East Garfield Park, all on the South and West sides. Oboi Reed of Slow Roll Chicago, which signed on to the letter about bike equity, endorsed the expansion with a statement: “We are especially happy to see Divvy expand to more communities of color and low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. We look forward to helping grow the system even more in underserved communities.”
To encourage people in the expansion neighborhoods to make safe and effective use of them, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is sending bicycling ambassadors to do outreach with residents and business owners. In the same vein, Divvy is reaching out to young people by hosting “Design-a-Divvy,” a contest where public high school students in the expansion neighborhoods submit art that reflects their community for bike baskets and fenders. Ten winners will be announced in June, right around the completion of the new stations, and winning designs will be printed on select Divvy bikes throughout Chicago.
Divvy and the city reportedly are planning to ensure that all Chicago neighborhoods will eventually be linked to the bike-share system — though they have no timeline for that. Meanwhile, neighborhoods that will still not have a station after the latest expansion are feeling “like a fifth wheel,” as the Chicago Sun-Times put it. Out of 50 wards, 17 will remain without a station. Frustrated aldermen in those communities proclaim that their residents deserve the health and pleasure benefits of cycling as much as anyone else in the city — and they are right. (At least one of those neighborhoods, Austin, is due to receive a station as part of the expansion next year into the Chicago suburbs.)
Also, while the numbers are ticking upward, female bike-share users are far outnumbered by men. In 2014, only about 24.5 percent of Divvy trips were taken by females. More women sign up for a membership than actually rode the bikes. So, this isn’t just a promotions issue. It may have to do with safety concerns, as well as clothing practicalities. The gender gap isn’t unique to Chicago, but Divvy’s leaders would be smart to face the unique challenges of female riders head-on.
Equity takes a number of other forms. Significantly, Divvy makes its trip data open to the public and explicitly encourages people to “download it, map it, animate it, or bring it to life!” The next step will be for CDOT and Divvy to release comprehensive demographic data on bike-share membership, beyond the current age and gender numbers that it offers, as well as details on how infrastructure and education resources are distributed among different communities. This is crucial to developing an inclusive and transparent program.
On a more brass-tacks level, an annual membership in Divvy — which gives you unlimited rides for a year — costs $75. A 24-hour pass costs $7. Compare that to a pass on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), where $100 will get you unlimited rides for only 30 days. That’s a persuasive model of improving resident mobility around the city, and also a powerful return on investment for local taxpayers. (The $9.25 million expansion is being paid for through federal and local TIF funds, as well as system sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. The original system had a capital cost of $19 million in public funds.) However, as Streetsblog Chicago points out, Divvy requires that users pay with credit or debit card, potentially making it inaccessible to unbanked residents. A “major announcement” on concrete steps addressing this issue is expected in early summer.
So, about two years after bike-share was introduced to the city, it’s still a work in progress. But the momentum is heartening. Divvy describes itself as “Chicago’s newest transit system.” That standard calls for serious scrutiny on how completely the light-blue bikes serve the full diversity of the city’s population. But Chicago should be applauded for committing itself to the highest possible ambitions. The city deserves nothing less.