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Parking? That’s your lot

Usa — Urbanism

Los Angeles is a sprawling city shaped by the demands of car owners – but now it wants to be a laboratory for new methods of transport. Driverless cars? E-scooters? Ride-sharing? Bring it on. At the LA CoMotion urban-mobility conference, mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants LA to be “the city that doesn’t say ‘no’”. Most agree that something needs to give: the city’s roads are chaotic. Now Garcetti is asking the sector’s brightest players to test ideas there.

Perhaps the most radical proposition to date comes from Woods Bagot. At the conference the architecture firm suggested that, if Angelenos change their mobility habits, the city could repurpose its carparks (which cover an area larger than Manhattan). “There’s been a radical change in LA: they’re building the largest mass-transit system in the US since New York finished its own in the 1940s,” says the firm’s James Sanders. He also pointed to the city’s reborn Downtown, where abandoned buildings have been converted into residential blocks. “This success was only possible because of a change to parking regulations after the Second World War: any new apartment had to have two parking spaces. But the city ‘zeroed’ that in the Downtown.” Once Angelenos are in shared rides and on subways, says Woods Bagot, the whole city could have the density of Downtown. That would free up space for about 1.5 million new homes on the sites of the carparks. With the 2028 Olympics looming, the city is clearly going for gold in the transport race.

Keeping score

Global — Culture

It’s not unusual for a city to ask a musician to compose a song for its local orchestra. It is unexpected, though, when the artist decides to incorporate urban sounds into the melody. That’s what Tod Machover, a composer, inventor and professor at MIT’s Media Lab, did in 2013 when the Toronto Symphony invited him to write a piece. “I was interested in making a musical portrait of Toronto by listening to the city,” he says. He incorporated noises such as traffic, and asked residents to submit sounds too. Collaborations with cities such as Edinburgh and Detroit followed. “Each city is different,” says Machover. The results encapsulate sensations of urban living.

Appy travellers

Lithuania — Transport

Vilnius wants to transform itself into a smarter – and easier-to-navigate – city with the help of private technology firms and open data. The city has teamed up with the makers of the mobile app Trafi, which uses data from city hall to allow users to compare travel options in real time and to buy public-transport tickets.

“These kinds of platforms facilitate mobility in and around our city and help to reduce the number of cars on the road,” says mayor Remigijus Simasius. Citizens can also use the app Tvarkau Miesta to give instant feedback about any niggles, be it overflowing bins or potholes. Inga Romanovskiene, director of the city’s Tourism and Business Development Agency, says that by working with technology companies, “the city has opened a three-way conversation between governance, business and its citizens”.


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