Air Quality, Infrastructure and Public Health

Roads in the US are getting more crowded and congested, and the total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) hit a record high in 2016 with 3.2 trillion miles. Congestion refers to periods when the volume of traffic exceeds the road’s capacity, think about a traffic jam where cars sit idling. All over the US, congestion is getting worse, especially in urban areas. One study found that from 1980 to 2003 the total VMT increased by 111% in urban areas, while urban lane-miles only increased by 51%, which created a net effect of heavier traffic congestion.

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Blueprint Columbus: Near South - Morrill / Ann Area

The City of Columbus has a complex sewer system made up of three types of sewers:

  • Combined Sewers - these carry both sewage and rain water to treatment plants, where both are treated then released into a river

  • Separate Sewers - these are separated sanitary (for sewage) and storm sewers

  • Storm Sewers - located on curbs or in drainage ditches, these sewers empty rain water (and anything carried with it) directly back into rivers.

Many cities, including Columbus, are experiencing issues with their combined and separated sanitary sewer systems, because they are often overloaded during heavy rain events. This causes combined sewers to overflow into rivers (see image below), which causes public health and ecological problems.

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Building Accessible Infrastructure for Everyone

Steve Krug once said “The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” Throughout our lives our physical and mental abilities change as we age, making ability more of a spectrum than a binary concept as we once thought. By keeping this in mind as we build infrastructure, we can make infrastructure more accessible to all people regardless of where they are on the ability-spectrum.

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Growth and Infrastructure in Columbus

Columbus, Ohio is well known for its college football team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, but also holds many other titles and accolades. Recently the SmartAsset report ranked Columbus as the 2nd best city for new college graduates due to its jobs, cost of living, entertainment and dining options. The report also noted that approximately 20% of people living in Columbus are in their 20s making it desirable for recent graduates and deemed it an “Indie Art City”. Among this praise, Forbes also named it the 11th best place (in the US) for businesses and careers. Other honors and awards the city has gotten over the year include the: Intelligent Community of the Year in 2015, US Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge winner, one of the best zoos in the US, the 2010 Library of the Year Award, Best Science Center, and many more.

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Walkable Infrastructure in Cities

What makes a city “walkable”? Who wants a walkable city? How is this related to infrastructure? What impacts does it have on citizens?

As our current demographics are changing, we are seeing a shift in housing priorities due to the two largest generations in American history, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and the millennials (born 1979-1996). Many baby boomers are now approaching retirement and downsizing since they no longer live with their children. This makes walkable neighborhoods more appealing to them, located in the denser areas like city and suburban town centers. Millennials also prefer these areas for the way of life and because it easy not to own a car. The Realtor’s survey found that currently only 12 percent of future homeowners favor houses in the “suburban-fringe” that rely completely on driving. By contrast, the most expensive housing on the market today is found in high-density and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.

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Transportation Infrastructure

Infrastructure has certainly been a buzzword recently, but what does it actually mean? How does it affect our everyday lives? Why is it always in the news?

The term infrastructure describes the various physical and organizational systems and facilities we need to operate as a society, such as the energy grid, our system of interconnecting roads, public transportation and much more. Good infrastructure is critical for a city, organization, country, etc. to function properly and be competitive in the global marketplace.

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Combined Sewer Systems and Green Infrastructure

Do you ever wonder where all the rainwater you see in streets goes? Or what’s under a manhole when you open it up? The short answer is pipes. But these aren’t just pipes. They act as an intricate system that collects rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater, designed to direct each to an appropriate place.

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Smart Cities and Cars

How often do you use your car? Did you know the average car is only in use about 5% of the time or less? Smart cities are changing some of the ways we think about traditional car use by incorporating new ideas about cars into their visions for the future, with electric and autonomous vehicles, in addition to connected vehicle technology.

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