On resilient cities

The Atlantic’s City Lab blog posted a conversation with The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative President Michael Berkowitz, and this bit caught my attention —

There’s a difference between resilient infrastructure and infrastructure that builds resilience. Resilient infrastructure is the bridge that doesn’t fall down in the flood. Infrastructure that builds resilience is the piece of infrastructure that promotes transportation or integration, that builds the fabric of the city in the strongest possible way. We’re going to get better at building and valuing resilient infrastructure. You can take your 50- or 100-year risk scenarios and say, does this or doesn’t this meet those standards. That’s an engineering question. …

One of the things we’ve found both in the developed and the developing regions is  that cities, just generally as a rule, are basically fighting fire day in and day out. What a chief resilience officer has is the luxury to think more strategically about some of the wicked problems that they face and set a new course. It’s outside of that fire-fighting ecosystem.

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On trains, planes, and automobiles

Being married to a civil engineer who spends his days working with mass transit, stories in the news about infrastructure tend to grab my eye. This recent article in the NYT about the human cost of ignoring maintenance is worth reading for its argument alone (notably echoed by a one Mr John Oliver), but the point about only responding when there’s a crisis sounds eerily similar to debates closer to my research —

“My biggest fear is that once this is no longer in the headlines it will fall by the wayside,” said Stephen M. Gensemer, a Maryland lawyer who represented Ms. Dean in a financial settlement with the state. “It concerns me that we have this focus on our aging infrastructure only when you have pieces of concrete falling on a motorist.”

Moral of the story, regardless of discipline: build (and maintain) resilient infrastructure. Please.