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TheCityFix Picks, April 15: Malaysian Mass Transit, Brownfield Conversions, Clean Time Square Air
Malaysia. Photo by R. Srijith.

Malaysia pursues a 500km mass rapid transit system (MRT). Photo by R. Srijith.

Welcome back to TheCityFix Picks, our series highlighting the newsy and noteworthy of the past week. Each Friday, we’ll run down the headlines falling under TheCityFix’s five themes: mobility, quality of life, environment, public space, and technology and innovation.

Mobility

The Iskander Regional Development Authority submitted a proposal to build a 500km mass rapid transit (MRT) system to improve connectivity within Iskandar, Malaysia.  The project will reportedly consist of five or six phases, with the first phase targeted for a 2020 completion.

Citing elevated gas prices, Amtrak President and CEO, Joe Boardman, reported a rousing 36 percent growth in Amtrak ridership since 2000. According to Boardman, 2011 is on pace to hold the company’s record for highest annual ridership.

Iteris, Inc., a technology company specializing in traffic management, received a $1.3 million contract to provide engineering and planning guidelines in traffic and transportation planning to the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport.

Developed by a collection of American city transportation officials, the Urban Bikeway Design Guide was recently released to aid cities in bicycle related planning.  The guide features best practices for bike lanes, cycle tracks, bicycle signals, intersection treatments, and signs.

Quality of Life

More than 50 local government representatives met in Nairobi, Kenya this past Sunday for a UN-HABITAT chaired event on urban mobility and sustainable urban transport.

Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee released  the San Francisco pedestrian injury figures, which indicate the importance of improving pedestrian infrastructure.  The committee found that there are roughly 800 pedestrian crashes each year, costing about $76 million in total, and comprising a quarter of the city’s traumatic injuries.

A new study from the Los Angeles Business Council proposes rooftop solar panels as an approach to address city costs.  The study found that adding solar panels on commercial buildings and multi-family housing facilities could generate enough power to cover the energy costs of 30,000 low-income housing units.

Environment

The latest report from the New York City Community Air Survey found that since Time Square was converted into a pedestrian plaza, NO pollution levels have decreased by 63 percent, and NO2 levels decreased by 41 percent.

New water-saving farming advancements by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have renewed U.S. interest in algae as an alternative biofuel energy source.

The power of feedback was highlighted in a recent project that gave individuals real-time electricity meters in Brighton, U.K. The ability to monitor daily energy consumption led to an average household energy usage drop of 15 percent.

Public Space

Australian government minister, Hon Lousie Asher, led a delegation of representatives from 60 Australian companies to meet with their Indian counterparts in the hopes of forming relationships for future sustainable urban infrastructure work.

A new design competition from the Institute for Urban Design in New York adopts a unique “crowd sourcing” format that solicits for design ideas from anyone familiar with New York City.

Brownfields have found new life with recent conversions into solar panel fields in the U.S. cities of Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

A recent report by investment strategist David Lynn of  ING Clarion Partners suggests that retail is making a dynamic move from suburban to urban areas.  The analysis examined retail rent trends in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Technology and Innovation

Aluminum in select automotive components could reduce vehicle weight by as much as 40 percent, according to a recent study by the University of Aachen for the European Aluminum Association.  Such structural changes are estimated to improve the fuel economy of today’s vehicles by roughly 10 percent.

IBM and the California Department of Transportation unveiled new smartphone technology that uses real-time traffic data and commuter habit-analytics to identify traffic jams and other road conditions.

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