All posts in Transportation

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Accelerating the modern world

A thrilling journey through the history of the car is on show in London

The automobile—a long-time fetish object of architects, the car is arguably the object that defines the 20th Century and one that has perhaps sent us crashing us into the 21st. The development of the car was once fuelled by optimism, able to set people free to go where they wanted, when they wanted. Today, however, its image has been tainted by its contribution to the climate crisis. The car is both personal and global, shaping lives, cities and nations, and it is the subject of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) latest exhibition: Cars: Accelerating the Modern World.

There’s no Lamborghini Countach, no Citroen DS or Aston Martin DB5 here, this isn’t that kind of show. Cars is a critique of the automobile and its impact. Expect instead to find posters about workers rights relating to Fordist assembly lines, maps tracking global oil production, the world’s first commercial car designed using wind tunnel testing (the Tatra 77), and Graham, the viral, life-sized latex figurine born from the Transport Accident Commission of Australia that shows how humans could evolve to survive a car crash.

Tucking the exhibition into the new AL_A-designed Sainsbury Gallery at the V&A in London, curators Brendan Cormier and Lizzie Bisley have, through a welcome variety of mediums, given audiences a thrilling ride through the history of the car that’s full of unexpected turns.

With regards to architecture, we’re given Prussian-American architect Albert Khan’s plans for the Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant, the place where assembly lines were first used for industrial production. Next to it is a model of Italian architect Giacomo Mattè-Trucco’s Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, complete with rooftop test track. But nearby is something more sinister—a letter from a Highland Park factory worker’s wife to Mr Ford. “The chain system you have is a slave driver! My God!” it reads, detailing the perils of the factory conditions.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Ford was a control freak. In 1926 he purchased land in Amazon Rainforest to produce his own rubber. Brazilian workers were banned from smoking, drinking alcohol and playing football, while American customs such as square-dancing in community halls and working in the sun, as well as hamburgers in the canteen, were introduced. The workers revolted and “Fordlandia”, as it was known, was abandoned in 1945.

Factory revolts and angry letters to bosses may be fewer and far between now, particularly as machines usurp humans in factory line production. A lengthy and eerily slow panning projection of the inside of the BMW Group Plant in Munich duly demonstrates this. Here machines do the heavy lifting while humans keep watch.

Cars also delves into the wider spatial implications of the automobile. Le Corbusier, who was as obsessed with the car as any architect (maybe more), designed the Maison Citröhan (1922)—named in the car manufacturer’s honor—to be as efficient as the car. Tire manufacturer Michelin, meanwhile, carried out an exhaustive photographic study of dangerous roads in America in the 1930s, highlighting the need for urgent improvement, and an array of photos from this shows just how poor America's roads once were. Missing, however, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s conception of the garage. The car’s impact on suburbs, roadside architecture (notably the work of Denise Scott-Brown), along with highways and freeways and drive-in cinemas is also amiss, but these do all feature in the exhibition’s accompanying book, which has been beautifully produced.

“In the end we ran out of space,” Cormier told AN. More important to the curators was to expose the rush for oil extraction the car created and the devastating effect this is having on the environment, which is understandable.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors are continually exposed to visions of a future which will never exist. One example: adverts and sci-fi films from 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s show many men in many cars, but none are stuck in traffic. By analyzing the automobile through the rear-view-mirror, Cars highlights how the car and modernity have failed to deliver on many promises. That hasn't stopped the industry, though. In the last room is 'Pop.Up Next', a concept from Italdesign which combines an electric car and a drone that is able to clip onto the pod-like vehicle—or rather, another attempt at a flying car, a never-realized fantasy of old which, like its predecessors, may be destined to forever belong in a museum. 

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World runs through 19 April 2020.

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Just Floating an Idea

Oakland councilwoman proposes converting cruise ships into homeless housing
During a presentation at a committee meeting on December 5, Oakland City Council president Rebecca Kaplan presented a doubtlessly provocative plan to partially resolve one of the California Bay Area's most significant political crises. One strategy for housing a thousand members of the region's homeless population, Kaplan suggested, would be to repurpose a disused cruise ship and keep it close to the harbor. “I think it’s worth working on," Kaplan opined, "to see if we can have an innovation to provide needed, urgent housing quickly and affordably.” As ludicrous as the idea may have sounded to Kaplan's audience members, it quickly gained traction with those in the industry. Two days after her presentation, an unidentified cruise ship company expressed interest in offering a number of ships for the cause. The opportunity might be attractive to a number of cruise ship companies in light of a looming emissions regulation imposed by the International Maritime Organization that is expected to take place next year. According to the new policy, a number of ships will not fail to qualify for engine upgrades and will therefore not be suitable as fully-functioning cruise ships. Unable to leave the docks, these ships could potentially serve a surprisingly altruistic purpose as they have in the past as emergency housing during Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Katrina, and other natural disasters. Given the proven track record (though not for long-term housing), Kaplan expressed that she is "excited about the possibility to create more affordable housing quickly.” The Port of Oakland, however, has stated that the plan could not work on its dock in light of current restrictions. The ports are designed for cargo ships, Port of Oakland spokesman Michael Zampa explained, and cannot reasonably accommodate cruise ships without significant alterations. When putting into perspective that the current homeless population in Oakland is currently over 4,000 with little sign of decreasing, a plan such as Kaplan's might become a reality in the near future.
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New Urbanist Gingerbread for Transit Oriented Teens

Museum of Architecture’s 2019 Gingerbread City explores transportation
Every year, London's Museum of Architecture challenges architects to create a fantastic and futuristic city made entirely out of gingerbread, marshmallows, and other sweet treats. Now in its fourth year, Gingerbread City is a miniature candy land designed to consider the future of the urban environment and spark public dialogue about architecture and how we interact with the cities around us.  While the city itself is delightfully whimsical and theoretically edible, the ideas embodied within its sugar-coated walls represent real insights on technology and sustainability. With transportation as this year’s theme, over 100 designers contributed imaginative ways of rethinking mobility in cities while shining the holiday lights on how architects and planners approach both the urban and natural landscapes. In order to participate, architects, designers, and engineers selected and purchased a plot from a master plan of the tiered city developed by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. Plot options ranged in size from “tiny” to “large,” as well as plots for specific London landmarks, landscapes, and bridges.  Gingerbread City is a really important project for Tibbalds because of the way it makes everyone who visits think about cities and what they mean. It prompts questions about the many things that designers and place-makers have to deal with in creating interesting places that work for those that use them,” said Hilary Satchwell, director of Tibbalds, said in a recent press release. “Fast, fun, edible urbanism is a great way into some important discussions about the value of place.” Complete with lighting, an operational train, and tons of punny names such as “Waffle Iron Tower,” “Wafer Bridge,” and “Gingerbread Modern,” this year's Gingerbread City takes place at Somerset House, or “Sugarset House” as Hawkins\Brown titled their submission. Participants include returning architects such as Foster + Partners, SOM, PDP London, PLP Architecture, and Phase3. Many other firms have joined for the first time including Grimshaw, KPF, and HKS. The city is complete with various districts including a University District, Cultural Quarter, Sustainable Quarter, Gingerbread Waterfront, Castle Hill, and London Quarter Island. Building types include mixed-use, bridges, houses, a stadium, university, train station, urban farm, ferry terminal, and many other spaces that are critical to the contemporary city.  With more than 40,000 public visitors annually, this year’s exhibition will also include a series of gingerbread house making workshops for families as well as a shop. The Museum of Architecture is also celebrating the launch of a new grant-giving fund which will support projects that engage the public with architecture. According to Melissa Woolford, the museum's founder and director, “The Gingerbread exhibition supports our year-round work as an architectural charity and this year sees us able to set up a grant-giving fund so we can support more public-facing and entrepreneurial projects.”  Gingerbread City is currently on display at Somerset House and will be on view through January 5, 2020.
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MO-ving On Up

Kansas City will be the first major U.S. city to offer free public transit
Kansas City, Missouri, may become the first major U.S. city to offer fare-free public transit. While the light rail system (opened in 2016) was already free, the City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to also make the bus routes open and accessible to all as well. The city’s new mayor, Quinton Lucas, said in a tweet, “We want this city to be as efficient as possible...we want to make it a city where a pedestrian has an opportunity to get to where they need to go.” The change has been a priority for the mayor whose “Zero Fare Transit” proposal has since been endorsed by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) as a way of putting money back into the local economy.  Robbie Makinen, the head of the KCATA, estimated that 20 percent of bus riders already ride for free, as rides are offered to both veterans and high school students. For everyone else, fares are currently $1.50 per ride or $50 for a monthly pass. Makinen believes that making the entire system free would cost about $12 million a year, and the city council has approved $8 million for the project so far.  But the Kansas City metro area is large—seven counties and two states. The new system would only be applicable to buses originating and returning to Kansas City, Missouri, meaning residents could ride free in some areas but not in others.  U.S. cities offering free rides on certain lines or within certain areas are not new, but Kansas City would be the first to offer a universal system. Fourth District Councilman Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the effort, said according to KCUR, “I don’t want to do it for any sort of national recognition, I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do, I believe that people have a right to move about this city.”
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Get On Your Bikes And Ride

CoMotion 2019 brought the future of urban mobility to the fore in L.A.
For anyone who has attempted to drive across Los Angeles during rush hour, the future of urban mobility might not seem bright. Yet the organizers of CoMotion L.A. 2019, a two-day conference held this past November 14 and 15, provided both a progressive and realizable vision for what may come to an audience of over 2,000 people. Held at ROW DTLA, a recently-opened 30-acre complex in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, the third annual CoMotion L.A. brought together global leaders, including Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, Moovit CEO and co-founder Nir Erez, Deputy Mayor for Mobility for the City of Lisbon, Miguel Gaspar, and President of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Matt Petersen, to discuss the newest forms of mobility and share their thoughts on a future that's less reliant on cars. The keynote conversation held on the first day, Reinventing Mobility, Transforming Place, elaborated on how the expansion of public mobility options might have a positive impact on real estate and civic space, and how we navigate through cities. Moderated by Frances Anderton, the host of KCRW’s Design and Architecture (DnA) show, the panel brought Grimshaw Architects' partner Andrew Byrne, chief marketing officer of REEF Technology Alan Cohen, and Chief Design Officer of the City of Los Angeles Christopher Hawthorne together to imagine how the static elements of Los Angeles’ infrastructure might be transformed into dynamic hubs of activity. Anderton and Hawthorne exchanged examples of successful pedestrian zones in the city’s history, while Byrne and Cohen shared how recent projects from their respective firms brought pedestrian infrastructure into the 21st century. On the second day, several 90-minute workshops were held for participants to imagine the future of urban mobility more intimately. Designing for Sustainability and Life Cycle Management, for example, shared visual aids and in-depth solutions to reducing the large carbon footprint associated with short-distance urban transit. Meanwhile, The Age of Automation panel, moderated by L.A. Times writer Russ Mitchell, brainstormed how vehicular autonomy might increase the speed, efficiency, and safety of urban travel while also debating the associated financial risks of investing in new technology. While the conference was taking place, a live demonstration of some of the same innovations being discussed was displayed on dedicated “new mobility” lanes that connected ROW DTLA and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator. These lanes provided a full half-mile of space for visitors to try out the latest in new mobility for themselves, including smart shuttles, electric scooters, e-bikes, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and other methods of clean-energy transportation. Though some of these vehicles had the air of concept designs, we all might be seeing them in common use throughout American cities in the very near future.
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Preferred Street Promenade

Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade will undergo transformative master plan
Following a presentation made to the Santa Monica City Council on November 5, significant updates have been approved for the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only shopping street that over the last three decades has become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. “Our predecessors were bold in 1989 and it’s time to be bold again as we reimagine the total experience of the Third Street Promenade,” said Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis in an official statement. “It’s time to reinvest in a community asset that has enriched lives and significantly contributed to Santa Monica’s prosperity." Known as “Promenade 3.0,” the master plan’s project team is comprised of local engineering firm KPFF and local architecture firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Gehl, which has worked together over the last year to develop three unique design concepts for the street: Improve, Adapt and Transform. ‘Improve’ would update the pedestrian experience by demolishing some of the site’s defunct retail pavilions to make room for pedestrian traffic while raising the roadway in certain sections; ‘Adapt’ calls for raising the entire roadway to curb level; and ‘Transform’ would remove and replace all existing flooring with updated materials, demolish retail pavilions, and add significantly more trees and other shading devices. All three plans include movable furniture, landscape areas and improved pedestrian crosswalks along the path’s two intersections. The City Council has expressed significant interest in Transform, the most ambitious redevelopment of the three proposals. In addition, the project team was encouraged by the Council to imagine even more transformative design gestures, which could serve to construct more zones for outdoor activities and increase opportunities for businesses operating lower-cost kiosks along the site. “Not only do we want to create an environment that gets people to come to the Promenade not just once but on repeated occasions … what’s important is that maintaining its authenticity will also make it more appealing to people,” said Mayor Davis. In its current arrangement, the Promenade covers three blocks of Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway, culminating in a three-story open-air mall that recently replaced the Frank Gehry-designed Santa Monica Place Mall. “When the Third Street Promenade debuted thirty years ago,” said City Manager Rick Cole, “it revolutionized the way we look at public space in Southern California.” Only time will tell if Promenade 3.0 will meaningfully bring the original design’s revolutionary qualities into the 21st century. The project will be funded by Promenade property and city owners and is expected to cost between $45 and $60 million. Once ground is broken in 2023 or 2024, construction is anticipated to take one to two years.
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Infrastructure Bites Back

Internet-infamous, truck-decapitating bridge will finally be raised
It’s the end of an era. The 11-foot, 8-inch railroad trestle that went viral for sheering the roofs off of campers, freight trucks, and other too-tall vehicles in Durham, North Carolina, is finally being raised. Nicknamed the “Can Opener” for obvious reasons, the Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Overpass gained notoriety after Durham resident Jürgen Henn set up a webcam in 2008 (and a second in 2009) to capture the carnage. Although there are plenty of signs nearby warning of the bridge’s low height, drivers either ignored or didn’t see them, and the resultant crashes were preserved forever on 11foot8.com. A subreddit, documentary, and plenty of memes soon followed, as viewers often binge watched the oddly soothing footage and shared tales of similar bridges in their own cities. But on October 18, that all changed. The Durham Transportation Department announced via Twitter that they would be raising the overpass by eight inches and closing the street below from October 23 through November 5. The upgrade is one of the North Carolina Railroad Company’s (NCRR) Major Capital Investments projects, which is intended to improve railway conditions around the state. In the case of the Can Opener, the NCRR is undertaking a “Rehabilitation of NCRR bridge over Gregson Street in Durham to increase the roadway clearance from 11 feet, 8 inches to 12 feet, 4 inches for the purpose of improving safety and reducing damage to NCRR infrastructure from vehicle strikes,” according to their list of capital improvements. What took the NCRR so long? According to 11foot8, the railroad company had installed a crash bar to mitigate damage to the bridge, and lowering the road would be prohibitively expensive due to the sewer main that runs right below the span—thus placing the upgrade on the backburner, as the crashes weren’t impacting NCRR service. As Mel Magazine laments, the raising of the overpass marks a blow to collective internet meme-making and schadenfreude-based binge-watching. When one hits play on an 11foot8 video, they know exactly what they’re getting into, no matter how fast or slow the approaching truck tries to sneak under. Still, just because the bridge is getting raised doesn’t mean the “fun” is over; as numerous online commenters have pointed out, the maximum allowable height of a truck in North Carolina is 13 feet, 6 inches. 11foot8 might live on after all.
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No More NAICM

Will Francisco González-Pulido design Mexico City's new airport?
Francisco González-Pulido of the Chicago-based FGP Atelier could be the mystery architect behind the design of Mexico City’s new, long-awaited airport. As AN previously reported, a cost-saving replacement to Foster + Partners’ $13 billion vision broke ground in June at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base located 29 miles outside the city center. No architect was named at the time and since then, construction hasn’t actually started. In fact, it’s been suspended on numerous occasions by a local judge until just yesterday when the green light was given to start work.  Despite the stall, news has broken that González-Pulido was invited by the federal government without bidding to collaborate on the airport project given his extensive background designing terminals in Bangkok, Chicago, and Munich. An investigation by national publication Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) discovered that the Mexican-American architect was involved, but could only confirm that he was an advisor, not specifically the architect of record. González-Pulido only suggested that his design for the airbase would be “energetic, functional, an emblem with which Mexicans identify, very technological and sustainable.”  When Norman Foster’s design for NAICM (Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México) in Texcoco was canceled last fall, Mexico’s new president Andres Manual Lopez Obrador handed the project over to the Ministry of Defense (Sedena), who selected the Santa Lucía as the site for a $3.8 billion Felipe Ángeles Airport. The largely-rural area, some have said, could become an airport city. But the new terminal wouldn’t be centered around commercial air travel like the former plans in Texcoco. Instead, it might be used to receive flights from low-cost airlines and freights from cargo companies.  Other national news outlets have reported that González-Pulido, who participated in the original NACIM competition in 2014—then as president of Helmut Jahn’s firm, will create the final design for the Felipe Ángeles Airport. But so far, no renderings have been revealed. According to MCCI, plans submitted for the environmental permits seemed to have been done by engineer José Mariá Riobóo, a former campaign adviser to the president.  AN has reached out to Francisco González-Pulido for comment and will update this article accordingly.
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The Sprawling Starfish

Beijing opens its gargantuan new airport by Zaha Hadid
It’s official: Zaha Hadid Architects' massive design for the new Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) is open to the public and expected to see up to 45 million passengers a year, with hopes of accommodating 72 million by 2025. Envisioned by the late Hadid herself in conjunction with French construction engineering firm ADP Ingénierie, the sprawling “starfish” structure is now considered the largest terminal building in the world at 7.5 million square feet. It was built in less than five years in an effort to relieve air traffic from the nearby Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), a 2008 design by Foster + Partners. Located at the opposite end of China’s capital to the south, PKX sits on the outskirts of the Daxing District.  Earlier today at 4:23 p.m. in China, the first commercial flight took off from the airport and headed to Guangzhou. Six other domestic flights departed from the four runways on site before 5 p.m. Over the coming weeks and months, several flight routes will be transitioned from PEK to PKX while some airlines, like British Airways, will move their entire Chinese operations to Daxing. In total, the airport is currently slated to handle 630,000 flights annually.  AN previously reported on the terminal’s sweeping interiors and its many signature-Zaha design moments. From the curved white walls and ceilings to the slick, polished floors, the airport is arguably one of the most visually complex in the world. It features radial skylights that extend out from the center of the structure down the length of its legs. A copper-colored skin clads the airport’s roofs and from above, it truly looks alien. From the inside, it takes on almost a new-age modernist tone.  The airport's grand opening comes just days before the 70-year anniversary since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. French construction engineering firm ADP Ingénierie led the design and build-out with ZHA.
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Build it Buffalo

Cuomo’s Buffalo Skyway Corridor competition announces top prizes
Last Tuesday, a panel of New York state and local officials announced the winning design of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Aim for the Sky” competition to reimagine the Buffalo Skyway Corridor. Out of over 100 entries, nine finalists were asked to pitch their ideas to a live audience and panel of judges. The $100,000 top prize was awarded shortly after the presentations to Rochester-based firm SWBR Architects for their submission titled “City of Lights: Re-View our Waterfront”, a collaboration with Fisher Associates and MRB Group.  The competition’s aim was to define “a clear vision for the City of Buffalo’s waterfront, helping inform the direction for investment in placemaking and economic development opportunities.” The Skyway, a four-mile-long, four-lane expressway that follows the Lake Erie waterfront was completed in 1955 and originally designed to connect truck traffic to and from factory complexes along the Port of Buffalo. Since the closure of the area’s steel plants in the 1980s, the corridor has transformed largely into a commuter highway system carrying up to 400,000 trips per day.  SWRB’s $300 million dollar proposal involves a portion of the Skyway north of the Buffalo River to be torn down. “This is going to let people view the skyline of Buffalo in a way that they have never been able to see it before... and we were able to break down the barriers that separate the waterfront from the community and the individual neighborhoods around it,” said Bill Price, a landscape architect with SWRB, according to local Buffalo news network WGRZ. The remaining portion of the skyway would be turned into a High Line-Esque elevated park for both pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposal aspires to strengthen connections between downtown and the Outer Harbor.  In fact, all of the proposals promoted connectivity to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which currently has no direct bike or pedestrian route to downtown. The second and third place finalists included the “Skyway River Loop” by Marvel Architects and “Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge” by Christian Calleri, Jeannine Muller, Min Soo Kang, and Andrea De Carlo, and the teams were awarded $50,000 and $25,000 respectively. “Queen City Harbor” also calls for portions of the Skyway's removal but focuses on how to open up that land for mixed-use infill development. Marvel’s proposal emphasizes the opposite form of action—keeping the skyway completely—but adding a street-level greenway and local bridge connections. Whether or not the grand winning scheme could be a reality is yet to be determined especially considering that New York State just spent close to $30 million to repair the Skyway and the estimated cost for its removal could be up to $600 million. But Cuomo is hopeful that this is the right move for this rust belt city. “The Buffalo waterfront has always been one of our state’s great assets, and by removing the existing Skyway we will lay the foundation for further transformation and growth in this community,” he said during the announcement. If all goes as planned, by utilizing an expedited Environmental Impact Statement, project construction could possibly be completed in five years.
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A Case for Cable

Gondolas over Jerusalem spark international controversy
The Holy City of Jerusalem is known for its hilly geography and the narrow, winding roads that delineate distinct Jewish, Arab and Christian neighborhoods. The city fabric nonetheless requires both visitors and residents to cross borders, whether to see various holy sites or to get to the market.  Ronnie Ellenblum, a sociology professor at Hebrew University, describes this Old City layout as requiring “that you pass through all sorts of places before you reach your destination, mingling, feeling lost, ultimately finding yourself.” However, this feeling of self-discovery in the Old City is set to be altered; Israeli authorities have approved plans for a cable car system that would fly visitors high above the city skyline, with lines corresponding specifically to Jewish heritage pilgrimage routes.  While Moshe Safdie, the renowned Israeli-born architect, calls the project “A total outrage against a fragile city,” as well as “An aesthetic and architectural affront,” the criticisms go far deeper than just the unimaginatively modern glass-and-steel aesthetics. The locations for stations, and the sites and neighborhoods set to be serviced, boil down to be controversial choices from all angles within the context of the Holy City.  Right-wing Israeli leaders have hailed the concept as a sustainable solution to the problems of vehicular traffic in the city, congested by ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims and tourists. However, the current cable car plan curates a certain "City of David" program over the city, as large-scale urban planning and transportation has the power to fundamentally change how cities are traversed and dictate what people see, how they see it, and how it's remembered.  The plan includes a standard station architecture of raised glass boxes that would rest on pylons at high points and hills, beginning in a Jewish neighborhood, swooping downwards towards Mount Zion, and finally landing at the Western Wall.  The new transit system would fundamentally alter the visual experience of the ancient city, juxtaposing the low yellowed-brick walls with the ubiquitous international glass box aesthetic, rising high above them and crisscrossing the streetscape. The architect of the station, Mendy Rosenfeld, believes it’s a matter of taste and execution, but also admits that “there is no way you can hide a cable car system.” Rosenfeld and supporters of the design cite I.M. Pei’s famous pyramid at the Louvre, and specifically the backlash the design received in advance of its international recognition. Yet Paris is not the crossroads of three major religions.  While Israeli governments have historically been hypersensitive to aesthetic changes to the city, the current body is taking a more progressive stance towards the built environment. With approvals for 40-story skyscrapers as well as a new office park, it seems like city officials are interested in keeping up with other rapidly growing commercial cities. But the choices in taste and architectural style continue to dominate not just architecture conversations, but international politics. Whether it’s traditional Jewish West Jerusalem cladding or shiny glass-and-steel pavilions, the choices in how the world sees and experiences the built environment today have implications far beyond form and function. 
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Fat Pockets

The MTA proposes its largest capital plan ever
Signal modernization, line extensions, and upgraded subway cars may not sound like riveting headline news, but the recently released blockbuster $51.5 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget proposal is targeting the woeful state of New York City's public transportation network. If approved, the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan projects a 70 percent jump in funding from the previous budget cycle.  The capital plan was proposed on the heels of major criticisms of the city’s subway system. In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the subway system after an A train derailed in upper Manhattan. Other common complaints included delayed service, overcrowded cars, and sweltering platform temperatures. Accordingly, well over half of the funds have been allocated for the subway system alone.  The program made major promises to MTA riders, including faster service, 70 new ADA accessible stations, and the completion of the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway. More specifically, the capital plan committed to modernizing signaling for 50 percent of passengers by reaching 11 train lines, and a total of 80 miles in track replacement. The transit system could also see sweeping upgrades like 1,900 new subway cars, 2,400 new buses, and over $4 billion spent for station renewals.  The capital plan would require billions of dollars worth of concerted federal, state, and local funding. The plan asked for $3 billion in federal funds for the Second Avenue Subway alone, which President Trump has already tweeted his support for, seemingly unprompted (Governor Cuomo was puzzled and denied reaching an agreement with the federal government). Another $3 billion is expected each from state and city authorities. While Cuomo has already committed to sending the state funding, the Governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio have notoriously disagreed over who is responsible for paying for the subway’s state of disrepair. The capital plan faces a lengthy approval process, including an upcoming MTA Board review and a review by the Capital Program Review Board. A major portion of the funding, $15 billion, is expected to be generated from the newly approved, but yet to be implemented, congestion pricing in parts of Manhattan.