Search results for "metro"

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Partially Postponed Projects

The government shutdown is hurting construction, trade, and manufacturers
Now in its third week, the partial government shutdown is proving extremely tough for not only direct federal employees but also outside contractors who work with and rely on funding from U.S. agencies. In New York alone, that means big-name organizations like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and smaller businesses helping with capital construction efforts throughout the five boroughs. It’s estimated that over 50,000 federal contract employees in the New York metropolitan area are out of work and pay with no end in sight. While some organizations aren't running at all, others are still forcing people to work but without hope of immediate reimbursement. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday the MTA could lose up to $150 million each month in federal funds as long the shutdown remains. This would halt major track repair work still ongoing after Hurricane Sandy and further construction on the Second Avenue Subway, according to the New York Post. This would happen because the General Fund, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Fiscal Service, is currently compromised, meaning companies working on state and city projects sponsored through the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants program will see a slow-down in reimbursement. New York will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the above subway improvements and work on the Select Bus Service lines, among other things. Because most public building and infrastructure construction projects in New York City are managed and funded by local government agencies, work will carry on. But that doesn’t mean it will all run as smoothly as expected. As weeks pass on, it will likely become increasingly difficult to import the necessary building materials selected for these construction projects. This is not only because of President Trump’s trade war but because of international shipping delays and a slow-down in safety checks through other agencies. The Federal Maritime Commission is closed and cannot smoothly regulate cargo clearance or port activity. In addition, hazardous materials being imported into the United States might be held up as all port investigators within the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been furloughed. What’s more, the Commerce Department can’t process requests from manufacturing companies who want an exemption from Trump’s metal tariffs. These are all big issues for U.S.-based manufacturers that can’t plan for the year ahead if they don’t have an accurate estimate of how much important imported materials will cost them and how long those products will take to reach them. Trump plans to make a televised, prime-time address tonight to discuss what he calls a humanitarian crisis at the U.S. Southern border. It’s unclear whether he’ll give an actual timeline for getting the government up and running again, though he’s repeatedly said he won’t cancel the shutdown until Congress gives him the full $5.6 billion needed to build his border wall. Until then, contractors in every city and state will have to make do with potential delays and money coming from their own bank accounts.
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Eliminating Elevation

Seattle set to finally close Alaskan Way Viaduct and open new tunnel
The aged elevated highway that famously borders downtown Seattle along its waterfront is set to officially close this Friday as part of the city's multi-pronged tunnel replacement project. The two-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as State Route 99, has blown past its recommended lifespan and has long been considered a major hazard to the city and its drivers. Its upcoming closure marks the beginning of a new transportation system for the whole city, but the saga leading up to this point has been harrowing. After a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Seattle in 2001, causing widespread panic about the then 48-year-old highway’s structural safety, the city and state began more seriously studying options to replace the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation settled on a plan in 2004 that would include the build-out of a shallow, six-lane tunnel, but opposition soon arose over the project’s exorbitant cost and lengthy proposed construction timeline. After years of arguments, the most dangerous part of the highway, which sat south of downtown, was eventually demolished in 2011. Two years later, Seattle began making way for the tunnel, but the boring machine used to burrow the tunnel’s diameter broke down four months into its 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. It took another two years to repair the machine and digging began again in late December 2015. Despite more setbacks, including a large, unexpected sinkhole, the tunnel boring project was completed in spring 2017. It’s expected to open up to vehicular traffic in four weeks. Next steps include the demolition of the remaining standing viaduct and the construction of a street-level boulevard along its footprint. Dubbed the New Alaskan Way, it will line the edge of Elliot Bay. Once that's complete, the entirely revamped highway system will stretch northbound in two directions starting from Seattle’s major sports stadiums, CenturyLink and Safeco Fields, which are situated south of downtown. The SR 99 tunnel route begins adjacent to the arenas and runs northeast underneath the city toward a northern portal near Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle. Drivers will be able to bypass downtown through the tunnel or the waterfront street-level surface highway or simply exit onto city streets. The decision to build both an underground highway and an elongated boulevard is an unconventional approach to mid-century transportation replacement projects. Cities around the country are currently grappling with similar situations revolving around dilapidated infrastructure, but Seattle’s struggle has been on the global stage for quite some time. After all, the Alaskan Way Viaduct should have come down decades ago when experts first saw signs of damage. It’s interesting to see a major metropolis, one sitting at sea level no less, choose this multi-project plan that for years created a mess of construction chaos and citywide debate. Though the pedestrian-friendly New Alaskan Way will likely do wonders to connect downtown Seattle with its industrial waterfront—a much-needed intervention—at a total of $3.3 billion it’s hard not to see this decision as both a big win for the city's future and a big burden for its present. 
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Steel Waiting For a Solution

Repair plan for shuttered Transbay Transit Center is in the works
Late last week, Transbay Joint Powers Authority officials in San Francisco approved plans to repair a pair of fractured beams that were discovered at the now-shuttered Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center last fall. The plan calls for the installation of four sets of new steel reinforcing plates to shore up the failing members, The San Francisco Examiner reported. The peer-reviewed repair plans were approved in late December by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), a transportation agency that works across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. MTC’s preliminary investigation concluded that the issues with the fissured beams were linked to the presence of welding access holes that had been cut into the beams to facilitate their installation. In all, four beams will be reinforced under the repair plan: the two fractured beams spanning over Fremont Street and a pair of corresponding but uncompromised beams located on the opposite side of the building. According to the report, the steel plates will be bolted together above and below the areas where the fractures occurred on each beam. A date for reopening the center has not been set, but authorities are at work on a construction schedule for the repairs. A further update to the plans will be presented to the board of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority later this week. The $2.2 billion transit center opened to much fanfare in August 2018 but closed just a few weeks after its debut because of the construction faults. The transit center spans three blocks and is capped by a 5.4-acre park designed by PWP Landscape Architects. Thornton Tomasetti is the design engineer for the project. The center has been closed for over 100 days and commuters have gone back to using a temporary bus depot that had been in operation during construction for their daily transportation needs.
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Little Athens of America

Self-taught artist carefully recreates Philadelphia's notable buildings
The New York Outsider Art Fair, which displays "Self-Taught Art, Art Brut, and Outsider Art," will bring Kambel Smith's hand-made sculptures to the public for the first time. Smith, a self-taught artist, has carefully created models of major buildings of Philadelphia. The models, while highly detailed, are made from cardboard and other materials salvaged from the trash. Many of them are large, carefully constructed objects in their own right. According to the Outsider Art Fair, "[t]hese large-scale works now require more than half the family's home in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to store." The 27th New York Outsider Art Fair will take place January 17-20 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.
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Highway Hangover

Three deck park proposals pop up over Atlanta's congested urban core
Three groups in Atlanta are proposing to cover portions of the city’s congested downtown highways with deck parks, or green spaces built over highly-trafficked roadways. Riffing off the recent rails-to-trails developments found in New York such as the High Line or Hudson Yards, these park-like platforms would attract newcomers and new development to Atlanta’s urban core while still allowing cars to continue crossing underneath. According to the Wall Street Journal, several schemes are underway to reimagine Atlanta’s notoriously crowded interstates with deck parks. One proposal, dubbed The Stitch is being touted by Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), a nonprofit community development organization that works to improve and preserve the downtown area. If built, the 14-acre park plan would span the I-75 and I-85 Downtown Connector from the Civic Center MARTA Station to Piedmont Avenue, creating a series of urban plazas and corridors for walkable and recreational space as well as special programming surrounding Emory University and the Georgia Power headquarters. Mixed-use residential projects, restaurants, retail, and medical buildings are also envisioned for The Stitch.  Though it seems like an ambitious undertaking—creating a new elevated public space with room for future tall construction—projects like this have been done before. In 2012, the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park was completed over the Woodall Rogers Freeway in Dallas, Texas. The city is currently constructing another one near the Dallas Zoo designed in collaboration with OJB Landscape Architecture. Similar initiatives set over abandoned infrastructure have also been erected over the last decade like Atlanta’s own Belt Line, boosting real estate values and enhancing green spaces in underutilized areas. The WSJ notes this is a growing trend. Nearly 30 cities around the U.S. have suggested deck park developments in recent years. Given Atlanta’s rising population and booming downtown development, it looks like the leading Southern city is on track to level up as an urban hub. Georgia already boasts the nation's largest tree canopy in a major metropolitan area, so adding serious acreage to downtown seems like a logical next step. And because Atlanta didn’t secure Amazon’s HQ2 bid, creating one or multiple deck parks in the city center could actually be a viable way to charm tech companies that want dynamic urban environments for their young employees. Besides The Stitch, another plan under consideration in Atlanta is a $250 million proposal for a 9-acre deck park covering Georgia State Route 400. Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) and Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers released renderings of the project in 2017 and announced a planned groundbreaking for 2020. Over the last year, the BCID has been busy raising money for the project. In another section of the city, it's rumored that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is looking to build a deck park along North Avenue at the I-85 and I-75 interchange in order to better connect Midtown Atlanta with Georgia Tech. Further details on the idea have not yet been released.
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Hitting Benchwallmarks

Governor Cuomo presents plan to prevent L train tunnel closure
At a 12:45 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to prevent the 15-month-long L train shutdown that was set to begin on April 27. Seated between a panel of engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia Universities and representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Cuomo repeatedly touted the innovative nature of the proposed solution—as well as his success in building the new Mario Cuomo Bridge. After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn was flooded with salt water. The L line, which ferries 250,000 riders a day between the two boroughs, still requires extensive repairs to fix the corrosion caused by the storm. The concrete bench walls lining the tunnel were damaged, as were the wires and other electrical components embedded behind them. The MTA was scrambling to implement alternatives for commuters, including turning an east-west stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street into a dedicated bus lane, but it now looks like the planning was for naught. The new scheme presented by Cuomo, a joint effort between the governor’s engineering team, WSP, Jacobs Engineering Group, and the MTA, restricts the slowdowns to nights and weekends. Instead of removing and rebuilding the tunnel’s bench wall, and the components behind it, only the most unstable sections will be removed. Then, a fiberglass wrapper will be bonded to the tunnel’s walls via adhesive polymers and mechanical fasteners. A new cable system will be run on the inside of the tunnel via a racking system and the old wiring will be abandoned. New walkways will be added to the areas where the bench walls have already been or will be removed. Finally, a “smart sensor” network of fiber-optic cables will be installed to monitor the bench wall’s movement and alert the MTA to potential maintenance issues. Governor Cuomo hailed the move as innovative, saying that this cable racking system was commonplace in European and Chinese rail projects but that this would be the first application in America. He also claimed that the fiberglass wrapping would be a “structural fix”, not just a Band-Aid, and that it was strong enough to hold the new Mario Cuomo bridge together. To increase the system’s sustainability, floodgates would be added to the First Avenue station in Manhattan and the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn. After the presentation was complete, Cuomo passed the microphone to MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who said that the agency would be implementing the changes immediately. Still, skepticism over whether the MTA would be able to implement the plan quickly bubbled up from the members of the press in attendance and on social media. Because this method of tunnel repair has thus far been untested in the U.S., the question of whether the MTA would be able to find skilled workers to implement the plan was raised. Cuomo, for the most part, brushed the concerns off, claiming that each piece of the repair scheme has been conducted individually before. If the L train repair plan proceeds as scheduled, one track at a time will be shut down on nights and weekends for up to 20 months. To offset the decrease in service, the MTA plans on increasing service on several other train lines, including the 7 and G.
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Density Immensity

This map depicts the population density of world cities in stunning detail
Maps are cool, maps are fun, maps show us things in the world that we couldn't otherwise see. Over at The Pudding, Matt Daniels has extruded block-by-block population data for some of the world's major cities to give viewers fine-grain insight into population distribution across the core and metro areas. New York, with Manhattan at the center, resembles a geyser just before gravity intervenes, while nearby but less dense locales like Philadelphia, D.C., and Boston look like a teenager's cheekbone in a Clearasil ad. (No shade towards the Northeast Corridor, I swear!) Daniels copped the data from the Global Human Settlement Layer and processed it using Google Earth Engine. For areas like India and China where population counts are unreliable, the data appears a little noisy in map view. A detailed explanation of the data gathering and manipulation is available here. Curious to see your city in bars? Head on over to Human Terrain. h/t City Observatory
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Bowlin' Out

Foster + Partners unveils Lusail Iconic stadium for 2022 FIFA World Cup
Foster + Partners revealed renderings of the much-anticipated Lusail Iconic Stadium, an 80,000-seat soccer venue that will house the opening and final games of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The project, commissioned by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, will be situated within the center of the up-and-coming Lusail City, an under-construction modern metropolis set nine miles north of Doha. The British firm designed the centerpiece structure to mirror the ancient Arab craft of bowl weaving. It will feature a shimmery, gold palette wrapped around a slightly undulating exterior and a saddle-form retractable roof that will float above a concrete seating bowl.   According to the architects, the stadium will boast a highly-efficient energy saving system, a requirement for FIFA World Cup constructions. Since Qatar’s climate is so intense, the building will help cool players and fans. Solar canopies will also hover over the parking and service areas to produce energy for the stadium and power the surrounding buildings. With Lusail Iconic Stadium, Foster + Partners joins the star-studded roster of studios that have designed projects for the tournament, including Zaha Hadid Architects and its controversial stadium in Al-Wakrah, which is near completion. Fenwick Iribarren Architects, a Spanish firm, is building a modular, 40,000-seat stadium made of repurposed steel shipping containers. After the tournament, the arenas are expected to be reused by the cities in which they’re built. The seats within Lusail Iconic Stadium, for example, will be removed and the structure will be used as a community space with room for shops, cafés, athletic and education facilities, as well as a health clinic. The project is slated for completion in 2020.
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Games *Are* Art

New gallery-building video game lets aspiring architects play art connoisseur
Move over Minecraft—a new video game is letting aspiring gallery designers build their own art worlds. In the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Occupy White Walls (OWW), players can build their own galleries, raise in-game cash by ticketing other players for entry, and expand their art collection using an algorithm that learns what type of art the player enjoys. OWW’s developers claim that with a toolkit of 1,762 and counting distinct architectural components, players can build any type of gallery they’d like, from MoMA PS1 to classical European art museums. Every gallery can be placed in its own specific context as well, from the urban metropolis to the middle of an infinite void. Players will need to not only place art, which ranges from 18th-century pieces to contemporary works, in a pleasing place to view it, but need to control for lighting, viewing angles, the appropriate frame, and more. In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, developer StikiPixels described their approach as taking the introverted, thoughtful world of gallery design and turning it into a social experience. Everyone’s creations can be patronized by real-world players who can buy the art on display and fuel further expansion. Another goal of OWW, according to the developers, is to broaden players’ artistic horizons without breaking the bank. Players are given options of (real world) pieces to display, and the game’s art discovery AI, DAISY, will give recommendations on future works that can be approved or dismissed. As DAISY gives more recommendations, the AI refines its suggestions across the entire player base. OWW is currently available for free through the game distribution platform Steam as of November 14. The game is still in the early access phase and may change before its official release, and the developers are soliciting feedback on how they can improve the experience.
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Man vs. Machine

Waymo's self-driving cars in Arizona elicit violence
Residents of Chandler, Arizona, are waging war against the city’s new fleet of self-driving cars. Distraught locals have slashed tires, pointed guns, and thrown themselves in front of Waymo vehicles in order to prevent them from transporting passengers, according to The Arizona Republic. In April 2017, technology development company Waymo started a trial of self-driving taxis in Phoenix, the first of their kind. This past month, the service continued to expand as it launched its first commercial self-driving car service called Waymo One, where people of the Phoenix metropolitan area can request a driverless car through the simple use of a cell-phone app. Since Waymo vehicles took to the streets some two years ago, 21 rioting incidents have been reported to the police, particularly in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. While safety concerns seem to have triggered many of the violent outbursts, other locals see Waymo as a threat to their livelihood. People are worried that technology is going to replace them in the workforce. Taxi drivers across the world, for instance, have fought against the rapid dissemination of Uber and other ride-hailing services. Waymo's current controversy is just the latest in a series of incidents where autonomous vehicles or ride-sharing companies are getting into trouble. Last March, the self-driving car industry as a whole suffered the ultimate backlash when a self-driving Uber SUV mindlessly hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.
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MIT Mini-storage

MIT to consolidate its architecture school in a warehouse revamped by DS+R
MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) is currently scattered all over the school’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, but not for much longer. The university announced on December 14 that it had tapped New York’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) to convert the historic Metropolitan Storage Warehouse into a central design hub. The idea of renovating the Metropolitan Warehouse, which was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986, has been kicking around since June of this year. At the time, SA+P dean Hashim Sarkis expressed the desire to consolidate the physical design and research components of the school into one location. The proposed changes would preserve the warehouse’s distinctive red brick facade (likely because of its historical significance). DS+R will be partnering with Boston’s Leers Weinzapfel Associates, no strangers to academic work, to bring 200,000 square feet of classrooms, galleries, workshops, studio spaces, and an auditorium to the former warehouse. A makerspace, accessible to the entire campus, will also be installed under the administration of Project Manus, a group responsible for integrating and updating such spaces at the school. The selection of DS+R began with a long list of potential architects that was put forth by MIT’s Office of Campus Planning (OCP). Representatives from every department of SA+P, Project Manus, and OCP then whittled the list down to four finalists. The remaining studios were invited to give private presentations in October, and feedback on each was taken from SA+P students and faculty, as well as representatives from the city. “A project of this scale and complexity,” said Sarkis, “which demands a design sensibility informed by both art and technology—along with a deep understanding of architecture education as well as the role of public space—is made for a firm like DS+R.” No estimated completion date for the project has been given yet, nor has a budget estimate, though MIT says that the school is in productive talks with alumni about fundraising to pay for it.
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Modernizing the Metro

MTA to double subway speed limits in parts of Brooklyn
Last weekend, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) doubled the speed limit on sections of two subway lines in Brooklyn, two decades after a high-speed train crash killed an operator and injured dozens of passengers. The recent changes, which boosted the speed limit of the N and R trains from 15 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, are part of transit chief Andy Byford’s multi-billion-dollar proposal to revolutionize New York City’s subway system by eradicating delays. “We want to keep pushing trains through the pipe and moving them,” Byford told The New York Times. The modified sections of the N and R lines are the first of many to increase in speed, with 100 locations to follow this spring. Byford’s goal is to reverse issues that arose from system changes made after the 1995 crash, when two trains collided on the Williamsburg Bridge, killing a J-train operator and wounding multiple riders. The changes resulted in decreased speed limits and increased delays. While the MTA has previously blamed overcrowding and slow passenger loading times for delays, Byford claims that speed limits that were implemented decades ago are the main reason for the troubled system. Since the 1995 crash, speed limits as low as 15 miles per hour were put into place, while signal systems called “grade time signals” were adjusted to automatically trigger a train’s brakes when another train is close by. However, in a three-person investigation conducted by Byford last summer, it was discovered that there were not only 130 areas where trains could move faster while remaining safe, but also 267 faulty grade time signals, forcing operators to drive trains at slower speeds for no reason, even if there were no train up ahead. A 2010 report by transit planner Matt Johnson further revealed that New York City trains travel at roughly 17 miles per hour, which is slower than any other heavy rail system in the United States. Byford, with help from the MTA safety committee, strives to find the right balance between safety and speed, not wanting to allow trains to run any slower than they should. So far, 34 sections of track have been approved for speed increases by the MTA, while 30 grade time signals have been repaired throughout Brooklyn.