Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Only one round left...
NB: This round has already been decided -- check out the results here!
We've come a long way from the Round of 32.
Regional competitions have been narrowed into a Final Four that pits sixth-seed Congestion Pricing against top-seed Bike Lanes, and second-seed Pedestrian Streets against top-ranked Waterfront Promenade.
Here's the leader-board, which has thinned out considerably at the top. The average score is 28.55.
|Name||Round of 32||Sweet 16||Elite Eight||Total points|
And, of course, here's the voting for the week:
On the left, we have Congestion Pricing, which vanquished top-seeded Car Share 61-39 in the last round to win the Le Corbusier regional, facing off against Bike Lanes, which avenged its Bike Share kin by beating Real-Time Arrival Clocks 67-33.
Is it fair to call the success of Congestion Pricing an underdog story? After all, its six-seed was merely something we invented when we created the bracket. You all have voted for it again and again.
We've received a ton of commentary -- some of it lighthearted and complimentary, some of it critical -- which we'll sum up in the final post. But for now, just briefly, we'll address the question of seeding.
As I mentioned in the first post, we tried to seed based on a how popular these concepts are and how common they are. Congestion pricing on roads hardly exists in this country, hence the low seed: it has remained an elusive reform. Bike lanes are fairly common, though no U.S. city has a network as comprehensive as a Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
At first, it seems unlikely that a city would have to choose between them -- each initiative has similar goals, one generates revenue for the city and one doesn't cost much at all. But each project has the same political opponents. Would Michael Bloomberg have been able to implement congestion pricing in New York City had he not spent so much political capital on bike lanes and pedestrian plazas? Do other mayors face a similar dilemma?
On the right side of the bracket, Pedestrian Street defeated Farmers' Markets by a 63-37 margin to win the Sidewalk Ballet regional, and Waterfront Promenade knocked off the Festival 70-30.
These two people-friendly improvements face off in a Final Four match-up. Of the two, waterfront renovations are probably slightly more common in the United States, with run-down waterfront areas converted into parks or other public spaces in New York City, Baltimore, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Seattle. Such developments are expensive, but are often framed as a stepping stone to downtown residential development, new retail spaces, and other efforts at expanding the tax base. They give people a reason to come downtown, and in the best cases, they return the waterfront to the people.
But pedestrian streets can work wonders as well, and for practically no money: see the car-free centers of European cities like Ghent and Copenhagen, or similar urban spaces in the U.S. like Beale Street in Memphis, which has gone from a burned-out, abandoned strip to a great destination for live music and a nice place to spend an evening outside.
Tune in on Thursday to see the results and vote for the winner!