A City Designed by Google


A City Designed by Google

We have an article on ParkNews.biz today that describes how Google is planning a Smart City, designed in, well, its image. The wizards at Google are testing their ideas in Toronto on a 12 acre strip. They have five goals in their ‘Smart City.’

  • The rising cost of housing — Pre-made modular housing units could cut down construction costs by 30 percent.
  • Long commutes — A system that enables all modes of transit — ridesharing, public transit, driverless cars, walking and cycling — could reduce congestion.
  • Environmental sustainability — Implementing thermal transfer technologies could reduce costs and cut back on wasted energy.
  • Ubiquitous connectivity — A solid, high-speed connectivity infrastructure that provides online access to residents is necessary to enable the city’s technology aims and provide data-driven services.
  • Creating a new “public realm” — Introducing self-driving cars can help open up space for pedestrians and public parks, the types of spaces that define cities.

Lets take them one by one.  The cost of housing. The law of supply and demand cannot be repealed. If you want lower cost housing, you need more housing. Up the supply, and assuming the demand remains the same, and the cost will go down. Building cheap housing out of cardboard and sawdust might work in a short term, but over the long haul, up the supply.

Oh, to reduce congestion. I note that they didn’t mention one solution that would reduce congestion immediately at no cost. Carpooling. (Well maybe ridesharing is the same, but I think they mean Uber, not carpoolling.) If only 20% of the people during the commuting hours would carpool two in a car, we would reduce the traffic by a fifth and congestion would go the way of the dodo. Rather than spend hundreds of billions on public transit and expect driverless cars to suddenly appear, why not develop carpool apps that people could use to meet up and leave one car at home. That plus a guilt inducing PR program and congestion would be under control.

Ah, sustainability. Aren’t energy companies slinging everything they have at this already. The problem is that we are trying to heat and cool houses built 75 years ago. If you read the article mentioned above, you will find that Google wants to start with a blank sheet of paper and raw acreage. Built a ‘Smart City’ from scratch. Super idea. But what about the billions who live in existing cities?

Connectivity. Do you know anyone who isn’t on line? Sure, folks who live in poorer neighborhoods may not have fiber and super high speed internet, but all those smart phone are connected somehow.   I know Google wants to put chips in all of us so we can be ‘connected’ but I’m so damn connected already that when a tree takes out the fiber, I have no clue what to do for the rest of the day.

Ah, yes. The Public Realm. Somehow self driving cars are going to magically make parking unnecessary and then all those surface lots can become parks and all will be right with the world. I don’t have any stats, but by looking around LA, I think that the vast majority of parking is under buildings or in structures.  Once again, our betters at Google are designing a city from the ground up.

I just love the parts of the city that aged wonderfully. Main Street in Santa Monica, or Larchmont, or Melrose or Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood to name a few in LA. These area have character. They have buildings that small businesses can afford and display the quirky feel that so many folks like. I’m not sure you can recreate that in a test tube generated city planned by (Shutter) Google.

Just Sayin.


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John Van Horn

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