Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Round 2 of our gut-wrenching head-to-head matchup!
NB: This round has already been decided -- check out the results here!
The Urbanist Toolkit Bracket Challenge is officially underway.
We've received brackets from all over the world and counted over 20,000 votes on the first-round match-ups. I wouldn't quite say the mighty have fallen, but five out of our 16 results were upsets (31 percent), which makes our competition slightly more exciting than the NCAA March Madness tournament, where 25 percent of first round match-ups (on average) end in victory for a lower seed.
When we check in to see who makes the Elite Eight later this week (and vote for the Final Four), we'll offer up some information about the bracket field -- if anyone is still perfect, what the average score is, and how the Cities staff brackets stack up.
Before we get to the first-round results and second-round voting, let's survey some experts in the field.
Harriet Tregoning, planning director for the District of Columbia, picked BIDs, the streetcar, congestion pricing, and the waterfront promenade for her Final Four. She has streetcar winning it all (fittingly, since D.C. has a streetcar coming next year) and notes in the margins: "Essentials: car share, bike lanes, streetcar, real-time arrival, bike share, BIDs."
Richard Florida, co-founder of this site and author of The Rise of the Creative Class, picked farmers' markets, congestion pricing, bike lanes, and said "yikes" to the Ed Koch regional but settled on the waterfront promenade. Florida has congestion pricing winning it all.
Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, tweets, "tried to do it and felt conflicted because we are doing both in some cases, can't pick 1 publicly." C'mon, Klein, grow a backbone!
We'll go region by region, but if you're keeping track at home, here's an updated bracket. (Click through to download.)
Sidewalk Ballet regional
The "Sidewalk Ballet" stayed golden, with top seeds pulling through in all four matches. Business Improvement Districts had a close brush with Wi-Fi in parks — who doesn't like free Internet? — but pulled through with a 55-45 margin. Food trucks triumphed 65-35 over pop-up parks; pedestrian street goes through with 77 percent of the vote, and farmers' markets with 88 percent.
In other words, the vote count corresponded perfectly with the seeding. This was the only bracket where that happened. (Full vote totals are listed at the bottom of this page.)
Now to business: the two Sweet Sixteen match-ups figure to be very, very close. (For more on these choices, check out the first post.) While BIDs, especially the biggest ones, do attract some controversy, these choices don't really represent competing visions of cities. It's more of a popularity contest between elements of the perfect little neighborhood.
Le Corbusier regional
The LC regional was half upsets over the weekend, as electric car charge stations, taking 67 percent of the vote, walloped red light cameras for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. Congestion pricing upended parking maximums as well, by a slightly smaller 58-42 margin. Up top, diverging diamonds took 15 percent of the vote -- the best performance for an eight-seed -- while falling to car share, which will face Uber in the next round.
Does car share have a clear route to the Final Four? Could it be unsettled by the smart phone-ordered taxi service? Or face an Elite Eight challenge from the underdog car policy reforms?
Poor, unsexy BRT was upset in the Dandyhorse, run down by the streetcar in a 57-43 vote. Now, a tougher test for our fixed guideway favorite: bike lanes, which received the second-most votes of any entrant in the first round.
On the bottom half, voters decided you had to walk before you could run and sent real-time arrival clocks into the Sweet Sixteen with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Bike share handled the cable car with an almost identical vote total as the 3-6 match-up: can it set up a chicken-and-egg contest with bike lanes in the Elite Eight?
Ed Koch regional
This was another region for upsets, with the common, higher-seeded elements of American cities -- privately-owned public spaces and convention centers -- falling to the new wave of reforms encapsulated by highway decks and festivals.
Meanwhile, the top two seeds, waterfront promenade and the stadium, advance, setting up a couple of tantalizing Sweet Sixteen match-ups between what is and what might be. Would you rather cover a highway or renovate a waterfront? Throw a party or throw a football?
Lastly, in case you're curious, here are the vote totals for the first round of voting. Be sure to tune in later this week and vote for the Final Four!