In case your missed it: this week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

    Happy Friday. This week was filled with new ideas in transportation, public space, affordable housing and yes, even soccer.

    Tech and Transportation

    A congressional hearing on the May 12, 2015 Amtrak derailment brought promises of automatic braking systems or positive train control, but it also yielded more questions than answers and plenty of partisan sniping. (NewsWorks)

    It’s not just about self-driving cars. The emphasis was on software, not hardware at the Intelligent Transportation Society meeting, held this week in Pittsburgh. The future of transportation looks bright, with big data, high connectivity and new high-tech tools.

    Surprisingly, for the second year in a row, Pittsburgh ranked last among the nation’s 40 largest metropolitan areas in terms of start-up activity, according to the 2015 Kauffman Index. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    But Richard Florida disagrees and envisions Pittsburgh as the next great tech hub. Uber has brought the company’s driverless-car efforts to Pittsburgh, snapping up as many as 40 Carnegie Mellon researchers, and keeping them in Pittsburgh. (CityLab)

    Uber continues to expand its reach. The ride-sharing service has arrived in Berks County. (The Reading Eagle)

    If riding on two wheels is more to your liking, you can still go high tech. A London company has invented a bike helmet with a navigation system. (CityLab)

    Pensions

    State Sen. John Eichelberger introduced Senate Bill 755 to address the “growing pension crisis at the municipal level.” The bill would permit municipalities to use defined contribution pension plans for all future municipal hires, including both non-uniform and public safety employees.

    Governor Tom Wolf is proposing to issue $3 billion in pension-obligation bonds, despite the role that such bonds have already played in the fiscal woes of other places. Interest has intensified after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state could not legally cut its public workers’ retirement benefits to lower costs. Pa. state Rep. John D. McGinnis, R-Blair, and former Penn State finance professor agrees. “The judiciary in Pennsylvania has been solidly of the belief that there are ‘implicit contracts,’ and you can’t deviate from them.” (The New York Times)

    Scranton’s pension woes continue. The investigation into double pensions awarded to some non-uniform workers was delayed by the discovery of meeting minutes that were thought not to exist. (The Times Tribune)

    Harrisburg

    Our photo essay explores the passion a Harrisburg firefighter finds in restoring a 106 year-old firehouse.

    Law enforcement personnel representing an unidentified agency raided former Harrisburg Mayor Steven Reed’s home removing boxes of unidentified materials and such items as a saddle and a spinning wheel. Mayor Reed’s tenure was known for part revival and massive debt. (WITF)

    Urban planning

    We may refer to them as pop-up parks, parklets and beer gardens, but these ideas are also known as tactical urbanism: low-cost projects intended to create long-term change in a particular public space. In West Philadelphia, the nonprofit University City District is improving quality of life by giving city dwellers a creative place to sit.

    In the struggle to keep housing affordable as real estate development spreads into formerly neglected neighborhoods, two groups have strategies to keep long-time residents from becoming displaced.  (NextCity)

    Affordable housing is a major concern, but what about an affordable workspace? Introducing the “maker space.” (CityLab)

    Summer fun

    Playing soccer can have its risks, but in Bethlehem, Bubble soccer takes out the high impact of what can be a hard hitting sport. Plus, it looks like fun! (The Morning Call)

    Grab your paddles. Kayaking is gaining popularity in Erie. (GoErie)

    And if you didn’t make it to France this year, enjoy Harrisburg’s Tour de Belt, a 20-mile loop with a “sag car” to pick you up in case of fatigue. (PennLive)

    In case you missed last week’s ICYMI, we reported that Tall Ships Philadelphia 2015 would include a 61 foot tall rubber duck. But this excitement is not without controversy. Feathers have been ruffled. Artist Florentijn Hofman says that the duck is being used without his authorization. (Philadelphia Magazine)

    Enjoy your weekend!

     

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