In the News

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Cars, pedestrians, race and the fate of 2 downtowns

James Fallows has an interesting report on two California cities struggling to revitalize their downtowns in diametrically different ways - and the response of local residents to the proposed changes. It's a provocative set of reactions and a compelling view on how people form opinions.

Excerpt:

"Eliza Tibbets and her husband Luther built an orange empire in the inland-Southern California city of Riverside, which we introduced briefly here before. As Deb points out, Riverside has undertaken a downtown-revitalization project based on exactly the opposite premise from the one now being applied in Fresno, as chronicled most recently here. Fresno has an arty, high-concept, half-century-old pedestrian mall that was once a commercial success but is now a half-occupied distress zone. The city’s solution is to dig up the mall and open Fulton Street once more to cars. Riverside, by contrast, turned its Main Street into a pedestrian mall not long after Fresno did—and it is sticking with that plan.
Who’s right? Readers weigh in."

Read the rest here.

Traverse City group wants rail service to/from Ann Arbor

The question isn't whether people want a train to Traverse City, it's whether they want it enough… and whether Michigan's pathological inertia with regard to transportation issues will ever allow it to happen.

Excerpt:

"At statewide community forums in 2010 while the Michigan Department of Transportationwas developing a state rail plan, a consistent and top theme that emerged was that Michigan's passenger rail system should include a Traverse City-to-southern Michigan connection, said Liz Treutel, a policy associate at the Michigan Environmental Council — which, with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, convened the meetings.

Feedback ran both ways, Treutel said. People in northern Michigan wanted easier access to downstate, and tourists were interested in rail service heading north."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor No. 1 small city for millennials

Apparently, the American Institute of Economic Research hasn't read any of Concentrate's articles on affordable or millennial-friendly housing but, hey, that's cool. We're #1! 

Excerpt:

"Ann Arbor is ranked first in the nation among the most desirable small cities to live and work for millennials while Detroit is ranked close to last in a study released today by the American Institute of Economic Research.

The combination of a low unemployment rate, the University of Michigan and a thriving technology industry helped vault Ann Arbor to the top spot in the study."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor-made Stratos card put to the test

Wired takes the all-cards-in-one Stratos credit card out for a spin… and is impressed with what it can do. 

Excerpt:

"There are a thousand upsides to a card like Stratos, even beyond finally ditching your gigantic George Costanza wallet. It can make sure you actually use your gift cards, or make getting a loyalty card totally automatic. It’s much more secure than a standard credit card, for a variety of reasons. If you lose it, just shut it off—you don’t need to cancel the individual cards themselves. It even uses Bluetooth to warn you if you left it in the check-holder, and will shut off if you get too far away."

Read the rest here.

Could a universal fare card link Ann Arbor and Detroit transit?

The Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan is working to make the region's public transportation easier to use with a universal fare card.

Excerpt:

"The Authority is studying what kind of funding and policy decisions are needed to introduce universal fare card technology to the region. CEO Michael Ford says it’s a lengthy process."

Listen to the rest here.

U-M struggles to achieve economic diversity

Given all the accolades and advantages U-M as as the fourth-ranked public university in the United States, you'd think it'd do a better job of educating low income students.

Excerpt:

"U-M has one number it’s probably not proud of: the smallest share of low-income students among Michigan’s public universities, and one of the lowest rates among public universities in the country."

Read the rest here.

Is the future of urban mobility microtransit?

Uber, Lyft, airport shuttles, independent commuter buses, the revolution has begun. But where is it heading and what's needed to create the optimal carless system?

Excerpt:

"Strictly speaking, there's nothing new about microtransit. Informal ride-sharing networks like New York's dollar vans have operated for years, while city agencies run paratransit services for people with disabilities (often at a great loss). But better data on mobility patterns and wide smartphone access have made flexible, on-demand transit more possible than ever. Social trends toward city living and away from car-ownership have also fanned the current flame."

Read the rest here.

The challenge to affordable housing in successful cities

The great conundrum: Cities with a high quality of life rapidly become unaffordable to the average citizen. Is it a real estate issue... or a wage issue?

Excerpt:

"Leading the buzz kill was Robert Hickey from the Center for Housing Policy, a division of the National Housing Conference, who quantified the scope of the problem—that incomes have simply not kept pace with housing costs. Citing a study of Chicago, Hickey said a growing number of families simply don’t earn enough to buy a typical home. Renters are the majority in 10 major cities from Miami to L.A., but the news is equally bad if not worse in that department: rents are up 40 to 80 percent. Households with severe housing cost burdens—shelter costs eating up the family budget and leaving little left over for anything else—have spread from low income to middle class."

Read the rest here.

VC investment in Michigan at highest level in 15 years

Investment in Michigan startups hit a 15 year high in the first quarter of 2015. 

Excerpt:

"Twelve companies across the state collectively received $75.3 million in venture capital investments from January to March, according to the MoneyTree report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers using data from Thomson Reuters. That compares to 14 deals for $37.1 million in the same period in 2014 and was the best first quarter since the 17 deals for $142.9 million to start 2000.

Two of the recent deals included companies in West Michigan.

Apjohn Ventures invested $3.5 million in Kalamazoo-based Armune BioScience Inc., which is commercializing a new-generation blood test for men suspected of having prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids-based software firm Buoy76 LLC received $950,000 from Start Garden LLC, Huron River Ventures in Ann Arbor, Detroit Development Ventures and an undisclosed investor, according to the report. Buoy76 is developing Sportsman Tracker, a mobile application that forecasts the best time and location for hunters and anglers as well as their probability of success."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor Greenway plan gets city funding

The Ann Arbor City Council earmarked $200K to develop a Greenway master plan in hopes of attracting further funding. It would build on a report developed by U-M graduate students in the urban planning department.

Excerpt:

"Council members made advancing the greenway vision a top city priority at a city budget retreat in December, and now the city's administration has included funding for a master plan in the proposed 2015-16 budget.

The envisioned walking and biking path would follow the general path of the Ann Arbor Railroad and Allen Creek."

Read the rest here.

Blogger digs into Ann Arbor's 826Michigan

A former EMU creative writing student decided to start a locally focused blog. She describes it as:

"Unpublished" is the journey of discovering Ann Arbor and everything it has to offer. It is exposing interiors; offering a deeper look at places I frequent. It is the gathering of recommendations from locals and my experiencing them for the first time. "Unpublished" is spreading Michigan roots in food, fashion, art, music, coffee and local business territories.

Her latest slice of local goodness is the nonprofit 826Michigan. Onward robots!

Excerpt:

"Having a relationship with creative writing all of my life, and working with children for half of it, I am confident in saying that 826michigan is probably the coolest nonprofit organization. Ever."

Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor Commuter Challenge breaks records

The car isn't the only way you can get to work. More and more folks are discovering that. This year's Commuter Challenge proved that - with a record number of sign ups. And the numbers keep climbing.

Excerpt:

"Despite lower gas prices, more employees than ever are signing up to try an alternative commute during the 2015 Commuter Challenge, happening in May.  With over 800 registrants to date, the Commuter Challenge is on track to break last year’s record for total participation.
 
The Commuter Challenge is a fun, free alternative commuting competition that happens during the month of May. The Challenge has been an Ann Arbor area institution since 2005. More information about the Challenge is available at www.LetsMakeaMove.org. During the Challenge, Ann Arbor area organizations compete to see who can get the most employees to try an alternative commute."

Read more about the program here.

Ann Arbor ranked second best Big Ten city

I'll see your badger and raise you one wolverine.

A 10 person penal ranked Big Ten communities (because, you know, science) and Ann Arbor got edged out by Madison for the top college town.

Excerpt:

"The winner was Madison, which received eight of 10 first-place votes and 12 points. A first-place vote was worth one point all the way down to 14 points for a last-place vote, so the lowest score prevailed.

"There is no place like (Madison) in the Big Ten during fall Saturdays and it's why Madtown is routinely voted one of the nation's best college towns," wrote Athlon's Braden Gall. "The capital city is located between two gorgeous lakes and is home to the famed State Street — and it's delicious brat haze. It's vibrant, fun, welcoming and an absolute blast.""

Read it here and weep.

Will we ever have good trains?

Echoing the challenges to establishing train travel in Michigan, our entire nation is far behind the ball when it comes to rail travel. Is it our pathological love of the car? Our inability to invest in the future? Our short sighted, highly partisan political leaders? The answer is yes.

Excerpt:

"Compared with the high-speed trains of Western Europe and East Asia, American passenger rail is notoriously creaky, tardy, and slow. The Acela, currently the only "high-speed" train in America, runs at an average pace of 68 miles per hour between Washington and Boston; a high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona averages 154 miles per hour. Amtrak's most punctual trains arrive on schedule 75 percent of the time; judged by Amtrak's lax standards, Japan's bullet trains are late basically 0 percent of the time."

Read the rest here.

National Geographic writer goes on culinary tour of Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor's dining options once again impress. Although, honestly, the writer barely scratches the surface. 

Excerpt:

"If there’s one restaurant you won’t want to miss, it’s Frita Batidos, a Cuban restaurant in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. Walk inside and you feel like you’ve been transported to a simple, modern NYC restaurant with spartan white walls and wooden picnic tables as seats. We ordered our fritas (Cuban-style burgers) piled high with avocado, eggs, and french fries (a fritas staple), but for all their mouth-stretching goodness, the real treat was the batidos (shakes). I went a more classic route with chocolate Español, but my sister’s hibiscus shake really stole the show. Add a shot of dark rum to any batido for a buck and you’ll be in hog heaven.

Read the rest here.
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