“The Smogometer”

I’m knee deep in Smogtown: The Lung-burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles by Chip Jacobs and William Kelley. It’s written like the pair wishes they were really James Elroy, but it’s chock-full of archival research and unbelievable anecdotes about just how toxic the miasma called air was in Los Angeles before the oil companies and defense manufacturers were ever subject to regulation.

The retrofitting of suburbia

“We tend to think that downtowns should be dynamic, and we expect that. But we seem to have an expectation that the suburbs should somehow remain frozen in whatever adolescent form they were first given birth to. It’s time to let them grow up.”

High-Speed Rail Makes Tracks Worldwide

High-speed rail is the latest public transportation buzz in the United States — and it’s also making tracks around the world. Spain, already admired for its high-speed rail system, got lots of international attention in May when it hosted U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood. Agence France-Presse reports that La Hood rode the trains there, as well as in France and Germany, looking for high-speed models to use back home. Spain intends to have a high-speed connection between Barcelona and the French border in place by 2012, according to the ThinkSpain.com website. Russia is also hoping for a rail-travel renaissance.

Two Wheels to the World

Pedal power is getting new respect worldwide, as concerns about climate change and hard economic times make bicycling increasingly popular. In Paris, “bike sharing” gives riders access to thousands of two-wheelers around the city, a service that is also gaining momentum in Mexico, Brazil and Canada. The women’s blog prettytough.com even calls bike sharing “the new public transportation.” Bicycling is also getting a big push from Asian governments. South Korea’s president wants to make his country “a bicycle heaven,” The Korea Times reports, while Time Magazine chimes in with news that Taiwan’s leader hopes to create “a cycling paradise” in his island nation.