TheCityFix Picks, February 17: South Africa Integrated Transport, Paint the Town Blue, Toxic Air

India has the world’s most toxic air. Photo by Andreas Metz.

Welcome back to TheCityFix Picks, our series highlighting the newsy and noteworthy of the past week. Each Friday, we’ll run down the headlines falling under TheCityFix’s five themes: integrated transport, urban development and accessibility, air quality and climate change, health and road safety, and communications and marketing.

Integrated Transport

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa is investing in a 1 billion South African Rand (about $130 million) integrated transportation project to transform the way public transport functions in the city. Pietermaritzburg is among 12 other cities in the country that will be funded by the national government to implement a cohesive network of public transit.

Again in South Africa, Cape Town was selected as the pilot area for a proposed integrated public transport system. The aim of the program is for the city to build on infrastructure that is currently there.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today recommended $2.2 billion in funding to begin or advance construction of 29 significant rail and bus rapid transit projects in 15 states.

Urban Development + Accessibility

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan awarded $1.8 billion to public housing authorities across the nation to make major large-scale improvements to public housing units. The funds come from HUD’s Capital Fund Program.

The chief minister of West Bengal in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta decided to paint the town various shades of blue in honor of the government’s new motto, “the sky is the limit.” The initiative is being criticized from certain members of the Congress, saying that the government is “preoccupying itself with non-essential issues.”

India is not likely to attain the Millennium Development Goals in infant mortality, maternal death and hunger, according to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

Turkey is seeing an incredible rate of urbanization and investing in massive urban renewal programs, where communities are uprooted and shunted into isolated tower blocks on the city’s fringes. Experts say that this method of growth will have a negative impact on crime rates in the future.

Air Quality + Climate change

A new study from the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who were exposed to higher levels of ambient particulate matter over the long term experienced a greater decline in cognitive scores. Several other studies have also found that these particles can actually get into the brain and cause inflammation and even trigger some microscopic changes that are typical of Alzheimer’s disease.

An international study conducted by Yale and Columbia Universities found that India has the world’s most toxic air by comparing air quality with regard to its effect on human health in 132 nations worldwide.

A new study from MIT found that air pollution cost the Chinese economy a whopping $112 billion in 2005—a $22 billion increase from 1975.

Health + Road Safety

The U.S. Transportation Department asked automakers to disable devices that allow drivers access to social networks and other electronic activities while a car is moving because of the road safety risk they pose as a distraction.

Fatalities among teenage drivers in the U.S. rose in first half of 2011, according to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Communications + Marketing

Transit agency officials in Dallas are making a conscious effort to make service planning and marketing an integral part of their strategy.  The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) plans to launch marketing promotions that are focused less on transit and more on passengers’ lifestyles.


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