Infrastructure


What Running Out of Power in a Tesla on the Side of a Highway Taught Me About the Road Trip of Tomorrow

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April 29, 2014
Charging fast and breaking down in the early days of the electric roadtrip

It's 209 miles from the parking lot of a Chili's in Barstow, California, where we are, to the parking lot of a Carl's Jr. in Kingman, Arizona, where we need to go. I'm in a rented Tesla Model S, a sleek, battery-powered electric vehicle, with a travel companion. We're just about fully charged, and the car estimates it can travel 247 miles before we need more juice. That's a buffer of 38 miles, which should be more than enough to reach Kingman. We'll soon realize it isn't.

Urban Infrastructure: What Would Nature Do?

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January 29, 2013
When urban infrastructure meets nature’s designers, amazing things can happen

We humans are problem solvers. We’re doers. We encounter challenges and complicated situations and we find ways to surmount them—crafting tools, erecting bridges, programming computers. We’ve innovated and designed our way out of countless predicaments and, dammit, we will forevermore.

We are also hopelessly arrogant.

See, we humans sometimes forget that we are not the only innovators and designers out there. We’re not the only ones able to creatively adapt our way through tricky or threatening conditions. We forget about nature.

Don't Hide Cell Phone Antennas, Embrace Them

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July 2, 2012
Calling for better designed telecommunications infrastructure.

The mobile phone in your pocket or purse is part of a vast communications system that is mostly beyond our vision, much like the internet. But as journalist Andrew Blum explains in his new book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, the bits and blogs of the seemingly wireless internet still travel to us on hard infrastructure and get stored in physical places. Similarly, the voices and texts and data that we regularly zip back and forth on our cell phones travel as radio waves we can't see and are connected through fiber optic cables buried beneath our feet.

Water Planning After the Age of Infrastructure

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December 14, 2009
Despite geologic barriers and in the face of scientific advice, huge infrastructure projects of the 20th century brought water to the arid Southwest and fueled the growth of a megaregion. But now that era of infrastructure-enabled growth is over, leaving planners, developers and policymakers looking for new ways to sustain growth and rising demand amid diminishing resources.

With the one arm he had left after fighting for the Union during the Civil War, John Wesley Powell led a team of 10 men and four boats on what was likely the most extreme and adventurous fact-finding mission since Lewis and Clark stumbled upon the West Coast of North America. It was 1869, and this was neither the first nor the last river voyage Powell would command.

Could Trains Ever Run on Cincinnati’s Secret Subway?

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April 9, 2016
A hundred years after construction began, the shell of a subway tunnel still lies beneath the Ohio city’s streets, empty and unfinished.

One hundred years ago this month, the Ohio city of Cincinnati made a fateful decision.

The city’s voters, by a majority of almost six-to-one, approved a bond issue to provide about $6 million of public money toward the construction of a two-track, 16-mile loop subway system.

It would be one of the first subway systems in the U.S., and would help connect a booming residential population south to the thriving downtown of what was then one of the 15 biggest cities in the country.

Photos: Bracing For a No-Show?

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March 10, 2016
L.A. built up the city to stave off an El Niño that was supposed to be a bruiser, but may never come. That kind of thinking just might save the City of Angels.

PCH embankment

LA River work

PCH shotcrete wall
© Nate Berg

Bracing For a No-Show?

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March 10, 2016
L.A. built up the city to stave off an El Niño that was supposed to be a bruiser, but may never come. That kind of thinking just might save the City of Angels.

It's early February, and two construction workers are perched over Malibu's Las Tunas State Beach in a cherry picker, spraying wet concrete on the embankment above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Their target is an outcropping of the Santa Monica Mountains, and sandwiched between the rocks and the ocean is Malibu's main drag: California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, a dazzling roadway that runs the length of the state. The gorgeous, jagged terrain make this a treacherous carriage.

New Yorkers to Get Free Wi-Fi via Old Phone Booths in Google-Funded Project

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June 29, 2015
Google’s urban innovation startup Sidewalk Labs has made its first big investment – turning NYC’s disused phone booths into 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots

The goal of free, high-speed internet for everyone in New York City has jumped much closer: Sidewalk Labs, the new Google-backed startup that was created last month to improve city life though technological innovation, has announced it is investing in a project to turn the city’s payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots.

Los Angeles's Four Level Interchange: A History of Cities in 50 Buildings

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April 13, 2015
Planned as ‘a landmark of beauty and pride for the entire city’, the Stack was the first of its kind, helping to create LA as a freeway metropolis and condemning its residents to largely car-dependent lives

The most famous – and most infamous – buildings in Los Angeles aren’t buildings. No one lives or works in them, but they have had an extraordinary impact on the city, its people, and the world as a whole. LA’s most important buildings are its freeways, and the most iconic piece of this vast network is the Four Level Interchange: an elegant vertical boating knot of freeways and ramps just outside downtown.

Could LA survive without its freeways? My six-hour vision of a carless future

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January 27, 2015
Nate Berg reports direct from the middle lane of Route 101, one of America’s busiest freeways, as it undergoes a rare session of ‘swarm maintenance’

Sitting on a Los Angeles freeway – not in a traffic jam but, literally, sitting cross-legged in the middle lane of one of the busiest freeways in the United States – is a contrary infrastructural experience.

This is a space passed over by more than 125,000 cars a day, most speeding through at 60, 70 or 80 miles an hour. At a speed of zero, there’s a cognitive dissonance created by the frozen freeway’s stillness. It feels like visiting the moon, a place you know is real but never thought you’d see firsthand.