Posts tagged with "the environment":

Transit Stalls and Starts in the Midwest

On Wednesday, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively killed Detroit's planned light rail line, citing doubt about the city's ability to build and maintain the project, given its dire finances and collapsing levels of density. He instead pushed for bus rapid transit along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Elsewhere, however, transit seems to be gaining traction. The much debated Cincinnati Streetcar just received nearly $11 million in federal TIGER grants, allowing construction of the Over-the-Rhine to downtown line to commence, and planners will extend the line to the riverfront development called The Banks, as well as the adjacent stadia. A vociferous opposition has fought the planned line at the ballot box and in the courts, but so far they have yet to block it. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis the Central Indiana Transit Task Force are pushing for a modest tax increase to vastly expand that city's transit system, including doubling the city's bus fleet and building a commuter rail line to Noblesville. The three tenths of one percent income tax increase would be passed through a local two-country referendum, but first the state legislature must give the go ahead to allow the local referendum. That is not an insignificant hurdle in the very conservative, Republican controlled state government, but with much of Indy's business community, including it's chamber of commerce, supporting the tax, it may stand a chance.

Tiny Islands to Clean the Cuyahoga

Hey, remember that time that stretch of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire? That wasn't so great. Things have gotten better since then. We now have the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, Superfund and lots of other pollution control and remediation tools. Things have gotten better along the Cuyahoga too. One segment of the river remains persistently sick though, the one mile stetch, lined with steel bulkheads, that runs through to downtown. Planners are trying a new method to reintroduce a softer edge--with plants and the attendant microrganisms and fish--while preserving the areas still active industrial and shipping character: floating artificial islands. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission is testing a number of small floating islands of various designs to see if they can survive in the area's cold climate and polluted conditions. "If we can do this here--bring plant, bug and fish life back to a dead part of the river--it can have an impact on other places in the Great Lakes region," Christopher Alvarado, an associate senior planner at the commission, told the Plain Dealer.  

Plumen Light Bulb Wins Design of the Year

If one of the main complaints lodged against the compact fluorescent lightbulb is that it’s ugly, all that’s about to change with the Plumen 001. The energy efficient bulb has been hailed as one of the first major re-designs of the CFL, and today, it won Brit Insurance Product Design of the Year 2011. Created by product designer Samuel Wilkinson and British electronics company Hulger, the Plumen is made out of two interwoven glass tubes. The curved design has a new silhouette from every angle. In addition to radiating warm white light, it uses 80% less energy and lasting eight times longer than incandescents. According to the Financial Times, the Plumen is the most recent Brit Insurance Product winner in a pattern of awards recognizing products for their innovative interpretation of everyday objects. Jury chair Stephen Bayley explained, “The Plumen light bulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well, bringing a small measure of delight to an everyday product.” Will Self, a jury member, also remarked, “2011 was not a year to reward high-end design devised purely for conceptual reasons or added-value results.” The light bulb aims to address both the quality of light and design lacking in traditional CLFs. In an interview with Fast Company, Hulger founder Nicolas Roope explained that the light bulb was born out of the desire to bring sexy back to a universal product badly in need of a re-design.
"'Designers always look in the same places,' says Roope. 'They overlook the small things time and time again.' They decided to look the one place no one was looking. 'The lightbulb is completely barren, so '90s,' says Roope. 'It's an incredible source of ubiquity. If you can change the form even slightly you can change the whole game.'"
  Though the Plumen is only available in Europe right now, the award comes at a time when light bulbs is a political hot potato in the US. A 2007 bill will require 100-watt bulbs to become 25 percent more efficient by next year. The Tea Party has adopted the light bulb as a cause celebre against government regulation (notably referenced in Rep. Michelle Bachman's (R-MN) response to Obama's State of the Union address earlier this year). The Plumen is slated to go on sale in the US at the end of April 2011, and currently retails for £19.95 in the UK and €29.95 in the rest of Europe.

EPA Says Chicago Needs A Flush

The Environmental Protection Agency is urging the City of Chicago to clean up the Chicago River with the hope of meeting recreational standards, eventually even making it swimmable. The city's relationship to the River has been evolving, as the many recent developments along it attest. But the river still serves as the Chicago's sewage pipe, so clean-up will be an lengthy and expensive project, as this report from the Chicago Tribune details. AN recently looked at soft infrastructure strategies, including some in Chicago, that aim to mitigate storm water run-off, one of the major reasons for sewage overflow into the River. Promoting green roofs, building permeable alleys, planting trees--all of which the Daley administration has advanced--can all reduce run-off, but hard expensive infrastructure upgrades, such as the Deep Tunnel, will likely be needed to keep sewage out of the Chicago River.

Straphangers with Fins

For years, the MTA has been dumping decommissioned subway cars into the ocean to create artificial reefs for marine life. If you've ever wondered if it works, YouTube appears to have the answer. This video shows fish and a giant turtle swimming amid old red bird subway cars. The juxtaposition of the natural and manmade in such an unlikely location is a delight to watch. Next stop, the ocean floor! (via Huffington Post).