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A deep dive into the growing world of roads made of plastic.
You’re reading Startup Cities, a newsletter about startups that build neighborhoods and cities.
I’m still working on the How to be Rural in Tech series, which has proven quite popular (and somewhat controversial) with you all. Thanks for your emails and comments!
But today, an interlude:
Roads: Into the Tech Stack!
A common analogy used in this newsletter is that of cities as a technology stack. A “tech stack” is engineering slang to describe all the technologies brought together to deliver a product.
I love this metaphor. It’s grounded. And it opens the mind to where innovation may lurk and how a given innovation might support startups that build cities.
My latest article, published in Stripe’s Works in Progress magazine, deep dives into one critical component of a city’s tech stack: roads.
As I explain, roads in the United States are a troubled technology. Costs explode while quality often declines.
For many reasons it’s hard to innovate in roads (it doesn’t help that roads are mostly built and bought by organizations with poor incentives to innovate).
And yet the design of roads — their layout, their dimensions, their material, their cost, how they’re maintained — is one of the most important tasks of any city-builder (go read Alain Bertaud!)
Except for the people angrily tweeting at me about microplastics (jeez, I talk about it in the article), the piece was well received. It even got a nice boost from Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution:
Check out Plastic Roads in Works in Progress.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget Startups Should Build Cities!