The Secret Lives of NYC Subway Musicians: Best #Cityreads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.

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A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

"What New Yorkers Don't Realize About Their Subway Musicians," Alex Suskind, PolicyMic

No matter what level you play at, whether on stage or subway platform, the life of a musician is a difficult one. But there's something unique about being a subway musician.

If you play Penn Station, you have an average audience of more than 27,000 people an hour. It takes a certain kind of community-instilled resilience to deal with thousands of commuting New Yorkers. So there's one great truth to playing the city's subway: It's like the subway itself, connected. Spread out across the underground, the one thing subway musicians truly have in common is each other.

"The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking," Finlo Rohrer, BBC News

t's the rare idea that's both potentially transformative and simple enough to describe in a single sentence:

Divide the surface of the planet into roughly 57 million three-by-three-meter squares, label each one with a unique sequence of three random words (say, spouting.loves.granny or halfpipe.faster.tedious) and use these to replace the impossible-to-remember strings of numbers that comprise our geographical coordinate system.

"You cannot convey anything more effectively than with words. They're very quick to say, and have a very high verification rate," says Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words, the British startup that's out to replace numbers with words in the way we talk about locations. "Right now, over the phone, I could tell you 'knife.fork.spoon,' you could put that into what3words and it would give you one specific three-by-three meter square." (Incidentally, it's in North London.)




Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plan-replace-geographic-coordinates-earth-unique-strings-three-words-180949946/#UvGSujmMJG0hEPGx.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Divide the surface of the planet into roughly 57 million three-by-three-meter squares, label each one with a unique sequence of three random words (say, spouting.loves.granny or halfpipe.faster.tedious) and use these to replace the impossible-to-remember strings of numbers that comprise our geographical coordinate system.

"You cannot convey anything more effectively than with words. They're very quick to say, and have a very high verification rate," says Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words, the British startup that's out to replace numbers with words in the way we talk about locations. "Right now, over the phone, I could tell you 'knife.fork.spoon,' you could put that into what3words and it would give you one specific three-by-three meter square." (Incidentally, it's in North London.)




Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plan-replace-geographic-coordinates-earth-unique-strings-three-words-180949946/#UvGSujmMJG0hEPGx.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Divide the surface of the planet into roughly 57 million three-by-three-meter squares, label each one with a unique sequence of three random words (say, spouting.loves.granny or halfpipe.faster.tedious) and use these to replace the impossible-to-remember strings of numbers that comprise our geographical coordinate system.

"You cannot convey anything more effectively than with words. They're very quick to say, and have a very high verification rate," says Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words, the British startup that's out to replace numbers with words in the way we talk about locations. "Right now, over the phone, I could tell you 'knife.fork.spoon,' you could put that into what3words and it would give you one specific three-by-three meter square." (Incidentally, it's in North London.)




Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plan-replace-geographic-coordinates-earth-unique-strings-three-words-180949946/#UvGSujmMJG0hEPGx.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

 

It's the rare idea that's both potentially transformative and simple enough to describe in a single sentence:

Divide the surface of the planet into roughly 57 million three-by-three-meter squares, label each one with a unique sequence of three random words (say, spouting.loves.granny or halfpipe.faster.tedious) and use these to replace the impossible-to-remember strings of numbers that comprise our geographical coordinate system.

"You cannot convey anything more effectively than with words. They're very quick to say, and have a very high verification rate," says Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words, the British startup that's out to replace numbers with words in the way we talk about locations. "Right now, over the phone, I could tell you 'knife.fork.spoon,' you could put that into what3words and it would give you one specific three-by-three meter square." (Incidentally, it's in North London.)




Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plan-replace-geographic-coordinates-earth-unique-strings-three-words-180949946/#UvGSujmMJG0hEPGx.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Across the West, people are still choosing to walk. Nearly every journey in the UK involves a little walking, and nearly a quarter of all journeys are made entirely on foot, according to one survey. But the same study found that a mere 17% of trips were "just to walk". And that included dog-walking.

It is that "just to walk" category that is so beloved of creative thinkers.

"This Superheroic Train Keeps New York City's Subway Safe," Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

As we steered through the tunnels, a matter-of-fact MTA employee named Antonio Cabrera explained how everything worked. The outside of the train was covered in instruments that took as many measurements of the track as possible, and the front of the train was covered in high-powered halogen lights so that the cameras could see better. Passengers waiting on the platform squinted as we passed by, the lights were so bright. The train itself was as heavy as a passenger train so that it would create the same reaction from the tracks beneath.

Inside, the track geometry car is like a giant computer, complete with a server and screens around every corner. The one that makes the most immediate sense to a layperson is situated just to the left of the driver. It shows the cross section of a rail and scan of the whole tunnel created by lasers and other instruments.

"I used to call this the EKG of the track," explained Cabrera, the MTA's Assistant Chief Officer of Track Engineering, "but, different from an EKG, the flatter the track, the better."

"In New Delhi, A Rough Road for Bus Rapid Transit Systems," Mike Ives, Yale Environment 360

...BRT launches in Delhi and Pune have struggled because of opposition from car owners and a lack of institutional coordination. Delhi’s BRT woes intensified in 2012 after an activist filed a lawsuit claiming the system had unfairly taken road space from cars. As the case moved through Delhi’s high court, a judge ordered the BRT lanes opened to general traffic — a move that was later reversed, but not before tarnishing the BRT’s reputation. Dinesh Mohan of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, who advises the central government on transportation, says the Indian media's skeptical response to BRT was a "high-decibel attack" that gravely hurt the system’s chances of success.

BRT buses and subway systems are now being portrayed in Indian newspapers as adversaries fighting for municipal funding. The emerging narrative is that metros imply an elite standard of urban development, says Amit Bhatt, the strategy head for integrated urban transport at EMBARQ India. People in smaller Indian cities are now clamoring for metros, he says, even though BRT is typically far cheaper and more efficient than metros as a capital investment.

 "In the Battle for Newark, Fears of Becoming the Next Detroit," Siddharta Mitter, Al Jazeera America

“The biggest thing the mayor can do is be a cheerleader for the city,” said Jonathan Wharton, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology who wrote a book on Newark in the Booker years. “The city needs to find ways of getting past its negative imagery.”

By general agreement, this was Booker’s skill — and it brought major investment, albeit lubricated by generous incentives. Prudential and Panasonic built new headquarters. Newarker and former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal recently broke ground on a 23-story apartment building. A $410 million project to revive the once thriving downtown intersection of Market and Broad streets secured $52.5 million in tax breaks.

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