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One California Community's Power Switch

Back in the late 1990s, Steve Jobs' vision for Apple was to create a computing ecosystem that delivered an easy-to-navigate and seamless user experience, an alternative to the Windows world's disjointed hardware-software infrastructure. Apple's "Think Different" campaign capitalized on the strength of Apple's integrated approach and launched the company into the success it experiences today.

Much as Apple's approach changed the world of computing, thinking differently about infrastructure holds considerable promise for innovative civic leaders looking for ways to improve their communities' long-term economic robustness and livability. In its approach to its energy infrastructure, one California city is laying a path away from the dysfunctional 20th-century development processes that were put in place to keep costs low at the expense of long-term value and functionality, process that are still too often the norm for many cities. READ MORE

The Transportation Choices That Millennials Want

With no long-term solution in place -- or even in sight -- for the sputtering federal Highway Trust Fund, state and local governments are significantly increasing their own transportation spending. This shift is giving more control to local governments and allowing them to explore alternate transportation modes, not only as a means of reducing traffic congestion but also as a way to attract younger professionals who don't see the automobile as the only choice for mobility.

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How We're Learning to Measure Progress on Sustainability

Perhaps nothing speaks more to the challenge of sustainably managing infrastructure systems than attempting to measure their performance. It's a daunting task, at best, to merely inventory a city's systems -- water, energy, transportation and water, for example -- much less to describe and catalogue their many functions and interdependencies. Adding verification that the systems are sustainably managed would seem to be virtually impossible.

Some cities, however, are paving new ground toward making the impossible possible. While many communities have set sustainability goals, plans and programs, a lesser number are actively communicating their progress. A few cities have significantly raised the bar by defining performance statistics, setting timelines and publishing their results through online performance dashboards. These cities include Kansas City, Salt Lake City and, most recently, Los Angeles, whose Sustainable City pLAn dashboard debuted last month. READ MORE

Sustainability and the Biosphere We Inhabit

Billed as the world's largest scientific instrument, Biosphere 2 was built in the Arizona desert outside of Tucson in the late 1980s/early 1990s to model Earth, the first biosphere. Constructed by a private company looking to study space colonization technology, it was a project somewhat akin to miniaturizing the planet within a test tube, albeit a very large one -- three acres --with an equally large price tag of more than $150 million.

Eight biospherians entered this living laboratory in 1991 to reside within its sealed-off environment for two years. They wanted to demonstrate that humans had the biological and engineering know-how to build a self-contained system resilient to unpredicted challenges and capable of sustaining life over an extended period. It stands today as the first real-world, large-scale attempt to build a resilient, sustainable community and study it scientifically as a complex system in operation. READ MORE

Why a Regional View of Infrastructure Is Crucial

Dramatic images of crumbling roadways, derailed trains and collapsed bridges can be counted on to make the evening news. But the public-sector financial bodies, planning organizations and engineers entrusted with the maintenance and repair of our infrastructure aren't particularly newsworthy -- until something really bad happens. Ensuring that infrastructure gets the attention it needs before those bad things happen is a significant challenge for government.

Given that need to get the public and policy-makers to focus on the state of the crucial systems that underlie our regions, the recently released "2015 State of the Region: Infrastructure Report" by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is remarkable for both its purpose and scope. READ MORE