Uber has agreed to provide a window into its trove of transportation data to the city of Boston, with the goal of easing traffic congestion and leading to smarter city planning. Boston will receive anonymized information from the ride-hailing service, with trip logs showing the date and time each ride began and ended, the distance traveled, and the zip codes where people were picked up and dropped off. Boston officials note that that the move will further the city’s goal of becoming more data-driven when making policy and operations decisions. Boston taxis already provide law enforcement with real-time access to the GPS coordinates of trips, vehicle and driver identification information, as well information on payments and fares.
Disadvantaged children in Salton City, California, are receiving Internet access from a school bus equipped with a Wi-Fi router that parks outside their trailer park community in the evenings when the bus would otherwise be unused.. Although the hot spot is available as long as the battery lasts, which is usually about an hour, the school bus Wi-Fi program, started this fall, is one example of how Salton City is trying to help its low-income residents. The district hopes to expand the number of buses with routers from two to 90. Last year, the district gave every child a tablet computer for use in the school and the home.
In order to meet the needs of aging gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender boomers, who sometimes face discrimination when trying to obtain housing, a growing number of cities are creating affordable housing targeted to this population. With funding from the city of Chicago and other entities, a nonprofit recently opened the Town Hall development, one of the nation’s first affordable housing complexes for the LGBT-elderly. Similar housing developments have also opened in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, and more projects are in the works in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which opened a similar development in 2007. While these developments are marketed to the LGBT population, none requires identification with the LGBT community to be eligible. According to one estimate, about 3 million Americans that are 65 or older identify as LGBT, and that number is expected to double by 2030.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is putting roadkill to good use with an accelerated decomposition system that turns its highway carcasses into compost within six weeks. Under the pilot, the state agency is testing the transformation of the animals into plant food, which can then be used to control erosion and help establish grass areas. While the conversion system costs around $140,000, officials note that the roadkill collected by the agency costs nearly $4 million a year for disposal. Several other states also compost roadkill.
High school students in Arizona will soon be the first in the country required to pass the citizenship test normally given to immigrants in order to graduate. The goal of the new legislation is to ensure that students have a basic understanding of government in order to be more engaged citizens. Other state legislatures are expected to consider similar legislation this year. Some educators are criticizing the new law, asserting that the test is based on rote memorization and does little to encourage civic involvement.
Governments continue to take steps to create a future of driverless vehicles. In the United Kingdom, the cities of Greenwich, Milton Keynes, Coventry, and Bristol will operate official driverless car test districts for 1.5 to 3 years, allowing the cars to not only be beta-tested but also to help the public begin accepting their presence. The University of Michigan is readying a July opening of its own “M City,” a 32-acre testing and proving grounds for connected and driverless vehicles. Experts acknowledge, however, that the technology is still in its early stages.