Podcast: The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states

For my latest podcast, I read my Guardian Cities column, "The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states," which was the last piece ever commissioned for the section. Read the rest

Andrew Cuomo's naked hostility drives out MTA president Andy Byford, the "Train Daddy" who has transformed the world's rail systems

Andy Byford comes from generations of public transportation workers and worked his way from a London Underground platform supervisor to running multiple British rail lines; then went to Australia where he oversaw Railcorp in NSW; then to Toronto, where he ran a successful five-year initiative that turned the TTC into the American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding Transit System of the Year -- and then he moved to New York City, to turn around the ailing MTA. Read the rest

London cops announce citywide facial recognition cameras

In 2018, London's Metropolitan Police Force announced trials of a facial recognition system that could be married to the city's legendarily invasive CCTV thicket; the tests failed 98% of the time and led to arrests of people who opted out by covering their faces. Read the rest

Manhattan: a city of empty luxury condos and overflowing homeless shelters

New York's luxury real-estate market has been in freefall for years, and now the city's super-luxe buildings are sitting empty -- even as property prices in the city remain stubbornly high, prompting 300 New Yorkers to move out of the city every day, and filling the homeless shelters to capacity and beyond. Read the rest

Imagining a "smart city" that treats you as a sensor, not a thing to be sensed

The editors of Guardian Cities (previously) saw my Toronto Life blurb about how a "smart city" could be focused on enabling its residents, rather than tracking and manipulating them, and asked me to write a longer piece on the theme: The case for ... cities where you're the sensor, not the thing being sensed is the result. Read the rest

You will be helped! Research using real-world situations fails to replicate the "bystander effect"

For decades, the "bystander effect" (previously) has been a bedrock of received psychological wisdom: "individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help." Read the rest

Harry Shearer interviews Uber's smartest critic: Hubert "Bezzle" Horan

Hubert Horan (previously) is a transport industry analyst who has written more than 20 essays for Naked Capitalism as well as two peer-reviewed scholarly articles explaining why Uber is a "bezzle" -- that is, a scam that can't possibly ever make money, no matter how much it preys on drivers, ignores passenger safety, and destroys safe, regulated taxi businesses. Harry "Mr Burns" Shearer interviewed Horan (MP3) on the latest episode of his radio show, Le Show. It's a fantastic interview that quickly gets to the meat of Horan's critique of Uber, and then digs into both the ridiculous defenses that Uber and its defenders mount of its possible sustainability, and the social circumstances that allowed Uber to bezzle $21b from its investors in just a few years, while still attracting more investors. (Image: Tarcil, CC BY-SA, modified) (via Naked Capitalism) Read the rest

Maps of the lost streetcar and subway systems of North America

Jake Berman writes, "I've drawn a series of maps showing the lost streetcar and subway systems of North America." He's selling them as prints. Read the rest

How to reengineer our systems to address climate change's refugee crisis and create new, high-density cities on demand

Vinay Gupta (previously) is a polymath engineer/inventor, whose Buckminster Fuller-inspired "hexayurts" can be found all over Burning Man (and my novel Walkaway). Read the rest

Leaked document reveals that Sidewalk Labs' Toronto plans for private taxation, private roads, charter schools, corporate cops and judges, and punishment for people who choose privacy

Tomorrow, Toronto's City Council will hold a key vote on Sidewalk Labs's plan to privatize much of the city's lakeshore in the name of creating a "smart city" owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet. Read the rest

Burbank! Come to an emergency City Hall meeting on 10/29 to deal with the city's eviction crisis!

On Jan 1, 2020, AB1482 comes into effect, capping rents at their rates as of March 15, 2019 plus an above-inflation; in response, the state's greediest landlords are evicting their tenants, either by raising their rents to levels they can't afford to pay between now and Jan 1, forcing them out, or by staging "no cause" evictions in cities that permit them. If those tenants are gone on Jan 1, the landlords can set a new rent floor that ignores the rates as of last March. Read the rest

Here's how to take Wired's advice and get your own e-scooter, for a fraction of the cost

Today, Wired advises you to "Stop Renting E-Scooters Every Day and Just Buy One Already!", which may or may not be good advice in terms of your own safety and the safety of others, but if you like the idea, you don't need to spend $1000-$1600 to risk your neck and the necks of everyone else on your commute. Read the rest

A quarter of NYC's post-2013 luxury condos are unsold

The real estate bubble is in trouble: London's luxury housing market has been in freefall for years, and New York's retail vacancy has been soaring, even as global super-luxe housing is also tanking. Read the rest

More than 20 Texas cities and towns have been taken hostage by ransomware

The American ransomware epidemic shows no signs of slowing, as the confluence of underinvestment in IT and information security and the NSA's reckless stockpiling of computer vulnerabilities means that petty criminals can extort vast sums from distant municipalities by seizing their entire networked infrastructure. Read the rest

Owner of Phoenix apartment building serves eviction notices to every tenant so he can turn their homes into unlicensed hotel rooms

Like many large US cities, Phoenix has a housing shortage and like many US cities, that crisis is worsened by the conversion of much of its housing stock into unlicensed hotel rooms through companies like Airbnb, VRBO, and Wanderjaunt, a new competitor in the unlicensed hotel room industry. Read the rest

New York City raised minimum wage to $15, and its restaurants outperformed the nation

After NYC raised its minimum wage from $7.25/h to $15/h this year -- the largest pay hike for low-waged workers in half a century -- the city's restaurants boomed, posting the highest growth levels in the country. Read the rest

Uber projected $8b in losses for 2019, but it just booked $5.2b in losses in a single quarter

Uber says it can be profitable someday: all it needs to do is corner the "total addressable market" for all transportation and food delivery, which will give it $12t in annual revenue, which is 15% of all global transactions. Read the rest

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