Posts tagged with "Infrastructure":

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AIANY and ASLANY honor 2018’s best transportation and infrastructure projects

At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:

Best in Competition

The Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel ArchitectsNelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.

Open Space

Honor

Hunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.

Merit

Roberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill

Citation

Spring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice

Planning

Merit

The QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.

Merit

Nexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown

Projects

Merit

The Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.

Structures

Honor

Fulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.

Merit

Number 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV

Merit

Mississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP

Merit

Denver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company

Student

Turnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of dangerously rushing a major bridge opening

Ahead of Thursday's New York State primary, news has come out that in July Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration might have enticed the contractor building the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to speed up construction in order to finish it ahead of its late August deadline. The 1.3-mile bridge opened late last night instead, two days before voters hit the polls. Critics are claiming that Cuomo rushed the bridge's construction, potentially dangerously so, in order to tout its completion during his competitive primary race against Cynthia Nixon. The New York Times snagged an internal document this week reporting that Tappan Zee Constructors were incentivized to open the bridge’s eastbound span by August 24 in exchange for the New York Thruway Authority potentially absorbing “premium additional costs.” The state also said it would pay for any possible accidents that might occur if construction continued on the bridge while traffic flowed upon opening. Vox reported yesterday that the second section of the twin-span, cable-stayed bridge was set to open August 15, but due to construction delays the date was pushed back by 10 days. In the document, a letter from Jamey Barbas, the state official overseeing the project to TZC president Terry Towle, Barbas detailed her reasons for asking the contractors to ramp up their efforts. The NYT wrote that Barbas said the extension and concessions are “part of the normal give-and-take between the state and its contractors.” While Governor Cuomo said Sunday in a press conference that he denies having any influence over the bridge’s timetable, the letter suggests otherwise as the Thruway Authority is a key part of his administration. Additionally, according to the NYT, the Governor outright admitted his involvement. “We’ve been accelerating the second span,” he said. “And Jamey and Matt [Driscoll, Thruway Authority executive director] have been doing everything they can to shave time because the sooner we open the bridge, the sooner the traffic comes down.” After further schedule changes, the bridge was supposed to open last Saturday, but due to weather concerns and safety issues, cars only began passing through the second span into Westchester yesterday. The governor announced its completion in a big ceremony last Friday that included a congratulatory speech by Hillary Clinton. Throughout his campaign to be reelected as governor, Cuomo has repeatedly praised the many infrastructure projects his administration has achieved over the last 12 years. While the bridge, named after his late father and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, is a much-needed project set to replace the 63-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge, critics argue that the Governor’s aim was to use its rapid completion as a ploy for good press. This weekend, Cuomo’s gubernatorial opponents Marc Molinaro and Cynthia Nixon both called for an investigation into the bridge controversy, according to ABC 7 New York. The administration claims that hours after Friday’s ceremony, workers found a flawed joint in the old Tappan Zee structure that could have caused part of it to fall. Because of its proximity to the new bridge, officials shut down construction and postponed Saturday's opening. The first span of the Mario M. Cuomo bridge was finished in August 2017. As of this year, both Cuomo and the Thruway Authority said it would be done by 2018, but, while cars are already crossing over part, construction is still underway. When finally finished, the bridge will include eight traffic lanes, a bike and pedestrian path, as well as room for future bus transit and commuter trains.
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Renzo Piano offers his expertise to rebuild collapsed Italian bridge

Renzo Piano has volunteered to help rebuild the recently collapsed Morandi Bridge in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. The world-renowned architect, who serves as a senator for life in the Italian Parliament, told the Observer last week that it’s his duty to respond to the national disaster and that he’d be happy to be further involved not only as an architect but as a citizen of Genoa. Earlier this month, part of the 51-year-old bridge snapped during a rainstorm, causing cars to freefall to the ground and killing 43 people total. The cable-stayed bridge was designed by structural engineer Riccardo Morandi and was considered an engineering marvel in its time. The August 14 tragedy raised worldwide concern over the functional lifespan of many bridges built in the mid-20th century. The Morandi Bridge was one of countless major pieces infrastructure in Italy, the U.S., and across the globe that have become dangerously fragile. Because the bridge was part of an arterial road in Italy, the A10 motorway, it must be rebuilt and has the potential to stand for unity and hope, according to Piano. “A bridge is a symbol and should never fall, because when a bridge falls, walls go up,” he said to the Observer. “So it’s not only physical but metaphorical—walls are bad, we should not build walls, but bridges are good, they make connections.” The architect, who lives in Paris, has an office that he designed in Genoa’s western seaside village of Punta Nave. In conversation with the Observer, Piano recounted growing up in the port city and visiting various construction sites with his builder parents. As a native, he knows what Genoa needs during this time of crisis and wants to offer his expertise. Though it’s too soon to talk about the specifics of a redesign, Piano said he believes a new bridge should convey a message of truth and pride. “It must be a place where people can recognize the tragedy in some way, while also providing a great entrance to the city,” he said. “All this must be done without any sign of rhetoric—that would be the worst trap. But I think we will stay away [from that] and instead try to express real pride and values. That is what Genoa deserves.”
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A Michigan power utility plans to be totally renewable by 2040

The power utility company serving Traverse City, Michigan, a small city in the north of the state, has decided to shift completely to renewable energy sources. The board of Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) decided this month that they would aim to make the shift by 2040, the Traverse City Record Eagle reported last week. Dozens of towns and cities across the country have made similar pledges in the years since President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement last year. According to the Record Eagle, Traverse City mayor Jim Carruthers had already announced that all of the city's municipal operations would be renewably powered by 2020. What distinguishes this step is that the utility company is exceeding goals set by the city it serves. Towns and cities rely on utility companies to provide electricity. These utilities, in turn, contract suppliers who generate electricity through a variety of means. When municipalities set green energy goals, that leaves utility companies scrambling to find providers who can fulfill the demand. In the Traverse City case, however, the utility company is deciding to ditch polluting sources before its customers have. The impact may not be enormous—TCL&P serves a region with a population less than 20,000—but it is an example of how utilities could evolve in other areas, and what customers could reasonably demand from their utility companies. As older fossil fuel power plants age out of use, utilities are sometimes confronted with a choice over whether to replace the loss from a similar source or to go after newer, sustainable solutions. The Record Eagle reported that two coal plants that currently supply TCL&P are scheduled to go offline by 2030, and that new wind farms on the Great Lakes could be potential replacements. The article also said that the decision was nearly unanimous among the utility's board, with only one member warning rising costs.
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Manufacturers launch ad campaigns to get their message to Trump

A group of American manufacturers has developed a new strategy to get their message to President Trump. Knowing that the president regularly watches a handful of programs on Fox, a trade organization has bought airtime for 30-second ads during the president's favorite shows to promote the group's messages. Bloomberg reported on a campaign from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) that debuted this month and encourages Trump to follow through on his campaign promise to create a massive national infrastructure spending program. The ad plays a clip of Trump's campaign victory speech when he said, "We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure." Another AEM ad from earlier this year encouraged the president and congressional leaders to reject steel tariffs, saying that they would harm equipment manufacturers. The clips show blue-collar workers speaking directly to the camera, often explicitly addressing the president. The steel tariff ad begins with a worker saying, "Mr. President, thanks to you, equipment manufacturing right here in Illinois is growing stronger." After a bit more ego-boosting, the workers then say that tariffs would undo the support that the president has shown industrial workers. Trump is known to be an avid television-watcher and reportedly insists on watching several Fox programs every day. The spots will run during programs like Fox and Friends, The Sean Hannity Show, and Tucker Carlson Tonight. According to Bloomberg, AEM plans to spend $250,000 on the infrastructure campaign.
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Almost 10 percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient

News of the bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, has urbanists, lawmakers, and everyday citizens alike rethinking the safety of aged infrastructure across the globe. A reported 39 people were killed on Tuesday when part of the cable-stayed Morandi Bridge snapped during a torrential downpour, causing dozens of vehicles to fall 148 feet to the ground. Completed in 1967, the 0.8 mile-long bridge underwent a restructuring effort two years ago and work on the foundation was underway this summer when the collapse occurred. Experts say both the design and maintenance of the 51-year-old bridge may be at fault for the catastrophic event. Many of the 614,387 bridges in the United States are nearing the end of their useful life, says to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Nearly four in ten are 50 years old or more, according to an ASCE report updated last year, but some significant repair work has been done over the last decade to ensure the future safety of a few of these structures. The ASCE reported that the percentage of structurally-deficient bridges in the U.S. has decreased from 12.1 percent to 9.1 percent since 2009 and that about 13.6 percent of the nation’s bridges are functionally obsolete. The ASCE also estimated that 15 percent were built between 40 and 49 years ago and will soon reach the end of their functional lifespan. With 188 million people traveling across poor bridges each year, these figures beg the question: How can the U.S. maintain its aging infrastructure? Though the U.S. has made advances on the state of its bridges, there’s still a long way to go. The ASCE said that it will cost $123 million to fix the nation’s deteriorating bridges and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association adds it will take nearly 37 years to do so. In January, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Bridge Investment Act in Congress, a $75 million measure that would help fund a 10-year federal grant for state bridge repairs, reports Construction Dive. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.
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Morandi Bridge collapse raises questions about the future of concrete

The Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed yesterday, apparently struck by lightning during a period of heavy rain, and about 30 people died and several others were injured. A viaduct on the A10 motorway, it was built between 1964 and 1967 and became a symbol of Italian post-World War II development. The bridge was designed by talented structural engineer Riccardo Morandi, then a prominent figure along with other Italian designers, including Pier Luigi Nervi and Sergio Musmeci. Morandi designed a similar project in Venezuela several years earlier. The entire viaduct was about one kilometer in length with a maximum span of around 200 meters. It consisted of a reinforced concrete structure with hybrid pre-stressed cable-stayed spans. Aside from its elegant design, it succeeded functionally because of its three piers that allowed it to fly over the existing buildings below. The viaduct was apparently weakened because the concrete was mixed with the incorrect viscosity, which created wave-like movement in the vehicle deck. Over the years, new steel cables were introduced to reinforce the inefficient pre-stressed stays while the whole bridge was facing constantly increasing traffic, reportedly more than 25 million passages a year, nearly four times the number initially planned. A proposed bypass highway project to decrease truck transit had been discussed since 2009, but local committees—apparently the 5 Stelle (5 Stars) populist movement governing Italy jointly with nationalist Lega Party since last June—rejected the proposal, with a sarcastic mention of “the fairy tale of the collapsing bridge." More recently, in 2016 independent senator Maurizio Rossi sent the former minister of transportation a written Q&A that pointed out potential structural issues of the bridge and highlighted the maintenance of the viaduct as a critical matter to be dealt with by Società Autostrade (formerly the State Highway Company). Professional engineers and designers have also suggested that reinforced concrete micro-fractures in the structure created by shaking from overloaded traffic were the potential reason for the collapse. Will this finally be a turning point for concrete as a hybrid construction material for bridges? It has long been seen as a poor material used by modernist egos for its formal plasticity even though it fails in durability. The Morandi Bridge was a national symbol of elegance and a crucial piece of infrastructure, and its collapse demands an appropriate infrastructure policy that deals with maintenance, management, and public procurement. This will avoid similar mass-murder. This is true not just in Italy, but worldwide since reinforced concrete is the most common material for bridges all over the planet. In the meantime, social media has been filled with self-proclaimed structural engineers insulting each other, stimulated by divisive politicians.
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Federal Transit Administration cuts funding for mass transit projects

This week the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) opened up an online survey inviting state transportation departments, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders—meaning you, the American public—to offer their opinions on what constitutes a "federal project." Through August 17, the transportation authority wants to gather these opinions in order to redefine which projects the federal government, as opposed to state and local governments, should be funding.  According to the FTA, the dialogue is meant to help the agency better understand how a "federal project" definition affects project delivery and solicits opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements. It's important to reevaluate the definition, the FTA says, because sometimes not every element of an overall project is federally funded. The FTA hopes this effort will help it streamline and expedite investment in transit infrastructure. News has been buzzing recently surrounding the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released in February and how it's seeking to cut the number of transit infrastructure projects that it's funding, going so far as declining to distribute money already approved by congress for spending. Part of the administration's plan is to shrink the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, which provides money for "federal projects," and the spending plan indicates that the administration would like a narrower definition of what constitutes a "federal project." In turn, many projects or project elements previously covered will now be declared ineligible for the CIG program.  The idea is to speed up federal investment on certain transit infrastructure, like roads and highways that cross state lines, while handing off the responsibility of paying for public transportation projects that facilitate intra-city movement, to local government agencies.  According to the FTA's recently released annual recommendations for 2019, only $1.046 billion will be granted for capital investment projects next year, which is half of what was approved for 2018 and one-third of what the FTA recommended during Obama’s last year in office. As of May, the FTA had only released $1.3 billion of the $2.6 billion already approved by Congress for 2018 through the CIG program and is now suggesting that it may not appropriate the rest of the money. If the money is not distributed by the end of 2019, it will be returned to the federal treasury. This year the FTA has approved two projects for full construction grants and executed smaller grants for eight others, including Phase 2 of New York City’s Second Avenue Subway, Phoenix’s South Central Light Rail, Seattle’s Center City Connector, and Los Angeles’s Purple Line Extension. The FTA has announced that “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”   This means that many critical projects already in the works within the CIG program may either suffer from significant delays due to lack of or decreased funding, or be stalled altogether if cities or private investors can't pay for them. The FTA is asking stakeholders to respond to this narrowing of the definition of "federal projects" by completing their online survey.    
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Detroit’s bridge to Canada ready for construction but faces political challenges

The Gordie Howe International Bridge, a six-lane span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is set to begin construction this fall after the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) selected a team to design and build the structure. Bridging North America, an architecture, engineering, and construction 'whos-who' team including ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd., AECOM, RBC Dominion Securities Inc., Carlos Fernandez Casado S.L/FHECOR Ingenieros Consultores, S.A., Moriyama and Teshima Architects, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, LLP, will oversee construction of the $3.7 billion bridge. The WDBA touted the bridge’s benefits in a project update on July 5. The Detroit-Windsor crossing is currently serviced by four separate crossings and accounts for 25 percent of the trade between the U.S. and Canada. Gordie Howe is supposed to streamline entry and exit across both countries for the 2.6 million trucks that make the crossing annually. The 1.5-mile-long span would be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America and would be supported by two enormous, A-shaped structural towers. In addition to the six lanes for vehicles, three in each direction, bike lanes have been planned for the side of the bridge facing Detroit. The bridge project includes new ports of entry on both borders and a new connection to I-75. Not everyone is on board with speeding up the flow of goods from Canada. Reflecting the sometimes tumultuous relationship that the Trump administration has had with America's neighbor to the north, owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, are reportedly trying to kill the project. The Ambassador Bridge currently handles 60 to 70 percent of truck traffic across the Detroit River, and the Canadian Government, owners of the WDBA, have stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge will need to be torn down once the Gordie Howe is complete. In response, the Morouns have been buying commercial airtime on Washington, D.C.-area Fox News stations in an attempt to influence Trump to scrap the Gordie Howe. The family has also been trying to get the Trump administration to inject the Gordie Howe into NAFTA negotiations and to pressure the Canadian government to drop its requirement that the Ambassador Bridge be dismantled. The Morouns are also fighting to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to acquire the land it needs to build a 167-acre port-of-entry in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood. The WDBA is still negotiating contract details with Bridging North America, and if everything proceeds as planned, work on the Gordie Howe should begin by the end of September.
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Chicago offers up historic Chicago Avenue bridge for free

Looking for a gift that truly shows you care? Give the gift of infrastructure! The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced it is offering up one of its historic bascule bridges for free to any state, local or responsible entity willing to haul it away. Built in 1914 by the Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge spans the north branch of the river and is one of many pony truss style bascule bridges. The bridges’ leaves are suspended on axles underneath the street, with the counterweight hidden within a riverbank pit tucked behind a limestone enclosure. This type of bridge was developed in Chicago in 1900, with the first one constructed in 1902 still in operation at Cortland Street and the Chicago River. Bascule bridges opened easily and did not obstruct the river with a central pier, a must to accommodate a busy early 20th century waterway serving Chicago’s commercial route to the Mississippi River system. The bridge replacement is a component to proposed traffic improvements along Chicago Avenue in advance of the construction of One Chicago Square, a massive 869 residential structure proposed at State Street and Chicago Avenue. Designed by Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, One Chicago Square calls for two glassy towers atop a podium, the tallest of which tops out at 1,011 feet, making it what could be Chicago’s sixth tallest building. The future owner of the bridge assumes all costs for moving the bridge and maintaining historically significant features. The City of Chicago intends to replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure this fall. Those interested must submit a proposal by July 13.  Thus far, the CDOT has received no offers for the bridge. The bridge comes with a determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which requires the City of Chicago to make a reasonable effort to offer the bridge up for restoration to interested parties. The gift includes the embedded counterweights and the two bridge houses.

Smart Cities New York

Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.
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Virgin Hyperloop One debuts prototype travel pods in Dubai

What if you could cut the travel time between two cities from a an hour's drive to less than 15 minutes? That's Virgin Hyperloop One's plan for a high-tech, high-speed autonomous transportation system that could one day link Abu Dhabi and Dubai. And now, with the unveiling of a prototype design for the pods that will carry commuters at nearly the speed of sound through low-pressure tubes using magnetic levitation, the plan is inching closer to reality. The first hyperloop pod prototype, created by Virgin Hyperloop One in conjunction with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), debuted last week as part of UAE Innovation Month, and it gives travelers the first sense of what a trip on the future 'loop might really look like. And, no surprise given that Richard Branson is a major investor, the vibe is very Virgin: sleek, modern, and bathed in moody colored light. The dream of hyperloop transportation has been one of tech's most hyped ideas since Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk proposed the idea with a white paper back in 2013. While the billionaire entrepreneur is not involved with this particular project, Virgin Hyperloop One has big plans of its own for the developing technology, including other on-demand travel networks linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Mumbai to Pune. Along with its high speed, the hyperloop is contained underground and completely autonomous, which may be a major factor in reaching the RTA's goal of making as many as 25 percent of travel in Dubai driverless by 2030. The Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop is expected to one day transport up to 10,000 people per hour between the two Emirati hubs, which are located about 75 miles apart, when it opens to the public, which could be as early as 2020. The Emirati hyperloop will be anchored by a B.I.G.–designed transport hub, making it clear that even when you take time out of the travel equation, things can still still look mighty futuristic.