• News

    A look at urban issues in the Bay Area and beyond

7 Phone Apps That Can Make Cities Better

May 23, 2011 BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
One of the greatest allures of a smart phone is the time it saves at the bus stop. Having real-time transit info and nearby stop locations at your fingertips makes city living just a little easier. But popular transit apps are just the beginning. Increasingly, smart phone technology is fundamentally changing the way we physically experience our cities. We have written before about SFMTA’s SFpark program , whose new iPhone application displays real-time parking availability and pricing data, and about Park Circa , an app that lets residents rent out their private parking spots. Below are 7 more apps that can transform our understanding of urban space, provide tools for affecting physical change, help us connect with our neighbors, and generally make our cities better. Blockboard Aiming to be a mobile bulletin board, Blockboard is a new neighborhood-based app currently in beta form for residents of the Mission District. Users...

Weekly Snapshot: Imagining Detroit

May 20, 2011 BY ANIKA JESI
Mark Bittman of the New York Times calls Detroit a model of "self-reliance and growth," citing the residents ability to look within the city for solutions to challenges posed by a shrinking population. The key to Detroit's recent successes, Bittman argues, is food. The city's food system is integrated with a sense of justice, community, and a commitment to smart land use that unifies residents across race and socioeconomic boundaries. "If the journey is as important as the destination, Detroit is already succeeding," Bittman suggests. Read full story at the New York Times More from the week in urbanism: SFMOMA Addition Design Being Revealed Soon In anticipation for the release of the SFMOMA addition designs on Wednesday, John King gives readers the tools they will need to critique the proposed building plans from an architectural perspective. Read full story at SF Gate: Urbanisation An interactive map shows how the world's...

The Numbers: Sea Level Rise Will Expose 270,000 People in the Bay Area to Flood Risk

May 17, 2011 BY MICAH HILT
Tomorrow night, we open " Adapt! " an exhibition on the coming effects of climate change in the Bay Area. The show highlights key points from a SPUR policy report released earlier this month , which explains the kinds of changes we can expect to our climate — and what we need to do now to prepare. As our report explains, efforts to slow down greenhouse gas emissions have so far failed, meaning some changes to our climate are now unavoidable. One of the most profound effects scientists expect is sea level rise. By 2100, seas will rise by an estimated 55 inches, exposing 270,000 people in the Bay Area to flood risk and threatening $62 billion of development. The Bay Area is also likely to see as many as eight times the number of “extreme heat” days it currently does by the close of the century — days that...

The Numbers: 30.3% of San Francisco Households Do Not Have a Vehicle

May 13, 2011 MICAH HILT
Compare this to the national picture: only 8.7% of U.S. household don't have cars . While we're certainly ahead of most parts of the country on carfree living, this still means that more than two thirds of San Francisco households do own a car -- and a higher percentage of San Franciscans, 38.9%, use their cars to drive alone to work. The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency recently released its 2011 Climate Action Strategy , a plan to substantially reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions. The report provides a point by point breakdown of the City’s current transportation situation and lays out clear plans to improve alternatives to car usage in and to San Francisco. Suggestions include supporting other modes of transit, like bikes and transit, supporting TOD projects, demand pricing on travel and parking, and creating "complete streets" that allow for many modes of transportation and usage. Read the...

Good Government Awards: How Cheryl Nashir Increased Retail Sales at SFO

May 12, 2011 -BY COLE ARMSTRONG AND ELIZABETH HOEHNKE
SPUR’s 31st annual Good Government Awards, held earlier this year, honored five City of San Francisco employees and teams who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Cheryl Nashir received an award in recognition of her leadership and vision in making San Francisco Airport a vibrant marketplace and increasing revenue. Since joining the Airport in 2006 she has developed and managed a dynamic mix of food and beverage, retail stores, advertising programs and other services, with the majority of selected businesses operating in the Bay Area. This has resulted in a 24% increase in the Airport’s revenue, totaling $98.7 million annually. This boost in revenue means the airport contributes $3 million to the city’s General Fund, during a time when the city faces enormous budget deficits. In addition, Nashir’s successful concessions program for Terminal 2 will generate $4.6 million to the Airport and $700,000...

The Numbers: SF Bike Rental Revenue Up 2,000% Since 1998

May 10, 2011 BY PETER ENZMINGER
SPUR has made the case that an expanded bike network gives residents a safer option to add exercise and subtract carbon from their transportation diet. Better bike infrastructure would benefit tourism as well — although visitors are already discovering the pleasures of biking San Francisco: in 1998, bike rental businesses in San Francisco had combined earnings of $500,000. Thirteen years later, that figure has ballooned to $10 million , according to a post on Streetsblog. These numbers, provided by Darryll White, CEO of Bike and Roll San Francisco, show tourists voting with their feet: even without a fully developed bicycle infrastructure, visitors want to explore the city without a windshield in the way. Bicycle tourism is a growth opportunity, and just one more reason why "bikeability" is a critical component of San Francisco's future — and a critical component of SPUR's recommendations for Fisherman's Wharf (pdf), and the Embarcadero (pdf).

Why We Need to Start Planning for Climate Change — Now

May 9, 2011
On May 4 SPUR released a major report, " Climate Change Hits Home ," that lays out what the Bay Area must do to start preparing for the coming effects of climate change. This project, a multi-year effort by a team of top climate scientists and government leaders, represents a turning point for SPUR. We have long worked to stop climate change, but now we are also addressing the reality that some climate change is inevitable, despite our best efforts. Even if we stopped producing greenhouse gases tomorrow, emissions already in the air would continue to warm the atmosphere. By 2050, we'll have nearly eight times as many dangerously hot days as we did in the 20th century. Sea levels are expected to rise 55 inches by 2100. And we need to start readying our railroads, highways, water supply, public health infrastructure and energy grid for the changes to come...

The Joys of Density: a Blogging Bird Reminds Us Why We Love Cities

May 3, 2011 By Karen Steen
The back window of our office here at SPUR looks out on a building with an entertaining tenant, a green Pacific Parrotlet who has free range of his studio apartment and an impressive collection of plastic toys. After observing his activities, we became curious about our feathered neighbor and Tweeted him the old-fashioned way. We taped a note up in the window: Hi green bird! We think you’re awesome. What’s your name? He responded quickly with his own sign: Hello SPUR I am Rico, a 7-month-old male Pacific Parrolet (they call me Parrolito) We replied with a new note: Rock on, Rico! We like your style. - Your fans @ SPUR Rico’s next note informed us that he had a blog, where he had posted about our fandom . The conversation ended just as quickly as it had begun, like so many of the brief yet intense interactions we have...

Which Transportation Projects Will We Give up on to Help Reduce Emissions?

April 26, 2011 BY STEPHEN TU
Tomorrow, April 27, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will vote on a final Committed Funds and Projects Policy for Plan Bay Area . This policy mouthful is an important step in defining which regional transportation projects will receive funding and which ones must undergo more thorough analysis. The vote will determine how many transportation projects will be scrutinized for their impact on greenhouse gases, driving, economic growth and other factors. Affected projects in could include highway widening, the Oakland Airport Connector and BART to San Jose. The issue before the MTC: deciding which projects are so far along that they shouldn’t be analyzed yet again under new criteria. The projects that are not further analyzed are considered “committed” and will be automatically included in the next Regional Transportation Plan. These committed projects will be included in all scenarios projecting the Bay Area’s future growth. What’s different this year: the next...

Get Email Updates

Get SPUR news and events delivered straight to your email inbox.

Sign up now