Lessons from Sim City; Lengthy Commutes; and Highways 2.0: Urban Insights From Around The Web

INSIGHTS :  Feb. 25, 2016

Ryan Holeywell | February 26, 2016Highlighting the week’s interesting, important and downright weird news about cities.

Freeway and skyline

Highlighting the week’s interesting, important and downright weird news about cities.

While the Urban Edge strives to provide readers with daily news and insights about urban policy, we’re also voracious readers of city news ourselves. As part of a new weekly feature, Senior Editor Ryan Holeywell highlights the week’s most interesting articles from around the web about urban policy and city life.

The Astonishing Human Potential Wasted on Commutes

It takes the average worker 26 minutes to travel to work, the longest commute since the Census began tracking the figure in 1980, Washington Post's Wonkblog reports. That adds up to a collective 3.4 million years spent getting to and from jobs each year. "There's a huge pool of more or less untapped human potential currently locked up in long commutes," Wonkblog writes, advocating for more employers to allow employees to telework.

Amid TB Outbreak, Alabama Pays Resisters to Get Tested

When Alabama health officials started investigating a rash of tuberculosis deaths in the state, they faced resistance -- and even violence -- from the public. So they took an unorthodox approach, offering $20 to people who would get tested and $100 for those who would get treatment for the disease, Governing reports. The approach appears to have helped stop the spread of the disease. It may also offer a new way of promoting public health.

Can a New Urban Highway Avoid the Mistakes of the Past?

Lafayette, Louisiana has felt the ill effects of a poorly planned urban highway before. But locals are hoping another roadway -- the I-49 Connector -- takes a "context sensitive approach" that could help enhance rather than destroy the community's character, City Lab reports. The design process involves soliciting feedback from 50 local leaders on dozens of design elements ranging from bridge beams to retaining walls to landscaping to bike racks. "I like to think we can build something that's never been built before," one of the group's members said.

Does This Smog Make Me Look Fat? Study Links Air Pollution and Obesity

We've long known about the link between air pollution and health issues like throat inflammation, respiratory problems, and low birth rates. But now, Grist reports, there's growing evidence that smog contributes to obesity. A Chinese study found that rats exposed to polluted air became 7 percent heavier after just two weeks of exposure. Their cholesterol was nearly double that of the rats that received clean, filtered area. The results come at a time when China is experiencing elevated pollution levels as well as an obesity epidemic.

What I Learned Playing Sim City

There's no doubt many city lovers grew up playing the popular simulation that exposed countless people to the concept of zoning. But looking back, Daniel Hertz writes for City Observatory, the game has major short-comings. Mixed-used zoning is nonexistent in the game. The game forces players to prioritize automobile traffic to pedestrians, yet unusually, parking simply doesn't exist. And, of course, political battles never have to be fought. Sorry, SimCity. You've got a long way to go.

Ryan Holeywell
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