This Month in Urban Affairs: A New Climate Data Tool for Cities, Tennessee’s Big Transit Plan, and California’s New Green Tech Economy

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Our new monthly roundup of the latest reading materials filtered through an urban affairs lens.

Architect Fernando Romero believes that borders are obsolete and archaic given today's technology and our mutually-dependent global economy. He designed a borderless, binational city straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, which would feature special economic zones and is geographically placed around the existing inland port of Santa Teresa, New Mexico. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Architect Fernando Romero believes that borders are obsolete and archaic given today’s technology and our mutually-dependent global economy. He designed a borderless, binational city straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, which would feature special economic zones and is geographically placed around the existing inland port of Santa Teresa, New Mexico. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)

Michigan reports a six percent drop in homelessness. The report, published by the group Ending Homelessness in Michigan, also registered a 15 percent percent drop in veteran homelessness. These declines occurred between 2014 and 2015, during which 34,000 people previously living on the streets, in shelters and in transitional housing programs exited the “homeless service system.” The decrease is partially attributed to a shift in policy from emergency shelters and street outreach to the HUD “rapid re-housing” model.

Millennials aren’t as entrepreneurial as they think they are. Could it have something to do with their enormous student debt burden? A new survey by the Economic Innovation Group reveals that 55 percent of millennials think their generation is more entrepreneurial than any previously. But the data says differently. Measured by the rate of new business formation, millennials are in fact less entrepreneurial than generation X or the boomers. This may be in no small part due to millennials’ unprecedented student debt burden. There was an 89 percent increase in the number of student borrowers between 2004 and 2014.

A new open source platform will help cities take climate action. Last week the White House announced the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP), a new data tool that will allow local governments, companies and investors easier access to dynamic climate data from NASA, NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and other federal sources. The platform will include data layers from the local to global scale, visualizations of social vulnerabilities to environmental hazards, and more.

The Middle Tennessee region will implement a $6 billion regional transit plan. Middle Tennessee’s Regional Transportation Authority, which includes 28 mayors and appointees from Gov. Bill Haslam, voted unanimously last week to adopt a $5.97 billion regional transit system. The region encompasses the Nashville metropolitan area, and is expected to have 1 million more people by 2040.

Architect Fernando Romero designed a borderless, binational, walkable metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. His design is currently on display at the London Design Biennale. The city would lie between New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. and Chihuahua in Mexico. The utopian metropolis would include many business districts linked by roadways and express trains, super-connectivity fostering a steady circulation of people, goods and services within and outside it, and a highway that connects the city’s dense and walkable center to far-flung regions in the East and West Coasts of the U.S.

Climate change legislation led to a flourishing green tech economy in California. California’s landmark AB32 climate legislation signed into law in 2006 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spurred immense investment and expansion of clean energy technology in the state, despite concerns that the progressive legislation would chase businesses away. Today, more than 27 percent of California’s demand for electricity is being met by renewable sources. One point seven percent of new cars registered in California last year ran solely on electricity, and a new family installs a rooftop solar array every seven minutes in the service area of the state’s largest utility. The state’s emissions have fallen nearly every year since 2007.

About the Author: Justin DeWaele is a Housing Program Specialist with NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Justin on Twitter @jdewaele1.