World Wide Wednesday: Dark and empty places, neighbourhood names and parking lots

Each week we will be focusing on blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues.

• While most global cities boast round the clock activity, made possible by armies of streetlights, many cities are moving to reduce nighttime lighting to save money on electrical bills. Citizens have expressed concern about safety, environmentalists welcome a darker night sky and others are exploring solar or concentrated lighting systems to reduce costs and focus the illumination where it is needed. (NYTimes)

• A photographer in London, a city famous for 24-hour hustle and bustle, captured what happens when the streets are empty on  Christmas morning. (Flickr)

• Forget the metropolis. The new unit of urbanity ought to be the megapolitan area, argue Arthur Nelson and Robert Lang, authors of the new book Megapolitan AmericaBy 2040, they forsee a United States carved up into 23 “megapolitan” areas –  large regions of interconnected metropolitan areas. While issues such as housing and education will be controlled at a smaller scale, the authors argue that the megapolitan area will be the unit of choice for transportation, economic development, and environmental planning. (The Atlantic Cities)

• What’s in a name? When it comes to a neighbourhood, a lot. The Atlantic Cities explores efforts in cities such as Indianapolis to enhance civic identity by creating or resurrecting neighbourhood names. While the practice can improve a sense of belonging, it can also fuel bitter divides and even facilitate gentrification. To counter the practice of real estate neighbourhood toponymy (ie. Nolita, SoBro), New York State assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries introduced legislation to ban realtors from inventing neighborhood names.

• Dave Gardetta at Los Angeles Magazine has a must read article on parking in Los Angeles and the work of guru Donald Shoup. “I truly believe that when men and women think about parking, their mental capacity reverts to the reptilian cortex of the brain…Our mental capacities just bottom out when we talk about parking,” says Shoup. The article explores the history of parking practices in L.A. and the evolution of parking planning from “a number you looked up in a book” to million dollar wireless meter systems.

• But if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Michael Kimmelman at NYTimes explores opportunities to enhance the urbanity of parking lots and encourage their use as meaningful public spaces. In the U.S., a country with as many as 2 billion parking spaces, there’s lots of room to work with.

 Image from IanVisits

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