It has been a bull market for downbeat urban reporting since the pandemic arrived in town. And it isn’t hard to see why. In 2020, central U.S. cities went from “comeback” success stories to ghost towns; transit lost nearly all ridership; tens of thousands of stores and restaurants shuttered; and many of the affluent decamped to the suburbs and distant Zoom towns.
Transit: The Latest Architecture and News
As its full title somewhat implies, Nicholas Dagen Bloom’s new book, The Great American Transit Disaster: A Century of Austerity, Auto-Centric Planning, and White Flight (University of Chicago Press), tells the whole grisly story of how, in less than a century, the U.S. changed from a rail-connected nation of cities and towns to a sprawling network of increasingly congested roads. A historian and a professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College, Bloom rejects the sort of conspiracy-driven narratives around transit’s demise and comes to an uneasy conclusion: America essentially chose the car for a variety of reasons, only one of which was automobile company collusion. I talked with Bloom about why transit in the U.S. collapsed, why it turned out differently in European cities, and the hopes for a transit renaissance.
When San Francisco’s MUNI spent big money on a “central subway” to Chinatown, I was doubtful. One recent Saturday, though, I revived the gallery-hopping I did before the pandemic, taking the train from Berkeley into the city, walking to one gallery near Embarcadero Station, then taking a tram past the ballpark to the CalTrain Station, where I switched to another tram to head south to Minnesota Street’s Dogpatch cluster of galleries and artists’ studios.
UNStudio, HKS, and Gehl Selected to Lead a Major Expansion of the Public Transit System in Austin, Texas
The Austin Transit Partnership has selected UNStudio, HKS, and Gehl to lead the architecture and urban design of Project Connect, a major expansion of the public transportation system in Austin, Texas, in the United States. The project is set to become a transformative investment, including and integrating the light rail system, expanded bus routes, and connectivity with more services across the city. The initiative is also voter-approved. In November 2020, Austin citizens approved Project Connect, leading to the creation of the independent entity Austin Transit Partnership charged with implementing the project. The citizens of Austin are invited to continue to get involved and provide feedback.
As Covid-19 spread across the globe last year, cities underwent a transformation unlike any we had seen in the last century. The sudden disappearance of both human and automotive traffic as people bunkered down under quarantine was visible in cities worldwide and, astonishingly, continued even after quarantine restrictions were lifted.
Ronald Lu & Partners has announced the completion of phase one of Tianhui TODTOWN: China’s first transit-oriented development, after 13 years of collective effort. The project promoting sustainability, mass transit, and community in Shanghai, takes the concept of public transit-oriented development (TOD) important in the development of China’s urban areas to the next level.
Between advances in autonomous technology and urban population growth, transit is being reimagined on the street and in the air. From public transit transforming to more user-centric mobility services, to rethinking regulatory and organizational status quos, advances in technology are expanding transit opportunities in cities around the world.
UNStudio has shared a prototype vision for a hyperloop transfer hub, intended to ultimately connect cities such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt in less than an hour. The project, done in collaboration with Hardt Hyperloop, was announced at a summit in Utrecht dedicated to exploring future transit in Europe.
Your obsession with transit-oriented design has been answered with the newest map series by Blue Crow Media. The first in this series, London Underground Architecture and Design Map curates original content by transport design historian, Mark Ovenden paired with photography by Will Scott to depict the London Underground. Mark Ovenden is a specialist in graphic design, cartography, and architecture in public transport with an emphasis on underground rapid transit, making him the natural fit for the design of this map.
Netherlands-based architectural firm KAAN Architecten, in partnership with ABT, Estudio Lamela and Ineco has been selected to design the new Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Terminal, with the help of Arnout Meijer Studio, DGMR and Planeground. Soon to be located south of Schiphol Plaza, at Jan Dellaert Plein, the new 100,500-square-metre terminal will implement futuristic and sustainable design trends.
In this six-minute-long video, Vox makes the argument that the primary reason behind the recent resurgence of streetcar systems—or proposals for streetcars, at least—in the USA is not because of their contributions to urban mobility, but instead because of the fact that they drive and sustain economic development. As it uncovers the causes for the popular failure of the streetcar systems in cities such as Washington DC, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City (low speed and limited connectivity, mostly) it asks why an increasing number of American city governments are pushing for streetcars in spite of their dismal record at improving transit. Is it solely due to their positively modern aesthetic? Are streetcars destined to function as mere “attractions” in a city’s urban landscape? Or is the real objective something more complex?
The Driverless Future Challenge's Winning Entry Uses Plug-and-Play System to Reclaim Public Space for Pedestrians
Of the four finalists selected for Blank Space’s “Driverless Future Challenge”, which was announced last month, “Public Square” has emerged as the winning entry, with a plug-and-play scheme to transform New York’s public realm for its streets and pedestrians. Designed by FXFOWLE and Sam Schwartz Engineering, the proposal was selected by a panel of New York City commissioners, for its response to the competition brief with a flexible system that accommodates a variety of public space typologies, while creating a harmonious coexistence between pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles.
Four teams have been selected as finalists in the “Driverless Future Challenge.” Organized by Blank Space with the City of New York and NY Tech Meetup, the competition asked teams to envision future strategies for implementation of autonomous transit in New York City.
Participants were tasked with evaluating the future of autonomous transportation through the four principles outlined by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC initiative:
- Growth - Improve city infrastructure, modulate traffic, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, eliminate traffic lights, autonomous deliveries.
- Equity - Making sure all citizens benefit from autonomous technology, focusing on accessibility, focusing on transit deserts, creating new jobs.
- Sustainability - Reduce need for parking, curbing emissions, increase carpooling, introducing micro-transit, new green spaces and bike lanes, renewable energy sources.
- Resilience - A more durable and safer transit system, reducing drunk driving, “Vision Zero,” pedestrian-first, faster emergency services.
Entries were received from more than 25 countries, proposing ideas for everything from driverless food carts and a fully-autonomous MTA transit system, to enhanced use of NYC’s 311 system as a driverless dispatching center, to Link NYC Wifi stations that become stops for autonomous micro-buses. The four finalist teams were selected by a multidisciplinary jury featuring top architects including Jeffrey Inaba (Inaba Williams), Odile Decq (Studio Odile Decq) and Jürgen Mayer H. (J. MAYER H.).
The four finalists include:
After a first edition that had over 100 participants and ended with an exhibition at Maison de l’Architecture du Québec, Morph.o.polis is once again accepting applications to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary with a co-creation experience to reinvent the city.
Aerial Futures, Grounded Visions: Shaping the Airport Terminal of Tomorrow was a two-day symposium held in October 2016 as part of the European Cultural Center's collateral event at the 2016 Venice Biennale. It encouraged discussion about the future of air travel from the perspectives of architecture, design, technology, culture and user experience. The event featured presentations and discussions by the likes of airport architect Curtis Fentress, Nelly Ben Yahoun, Donald Albrecht, Director of the Museum of the City of New York; Anna Gasco, post-doctoral researcher at the ETH-Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore; Jonathan Ledgard, co-founder of the Droneport Project; and Ashok Raiji, Principal at Arup New York.
Competition organizers Bee Breeders have just announced the results of their Trans-Siberian Pit Stops Competition. At 9,289 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow to Russia's far eastern cities. While it historically attracted many adventurers who would later write about their journeys, the railway is largely used for domestic travel today.
IndyGo is currently in the process of designing the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. As part of the overall system design, IndyGo is facilitating a design ideas competition to foster creative design solutions for 28 rapid transit stations along Phase 1 of the Red Line BRT route with possible replication of these stations along the two future phases.
AECOM has designed a preliminary study for a mixed-use transportation development in Solana Beach, California, as part of a response for a RFP (Request for Proposal). Located near major roads and connected to railroads, the project proposal consists of a combination of retail stores and restaurants, providing transit users with leisure spaces on their travels, in addition to parking for the nearby AMTRAK train station.