A new plan for U.S. transportation! California tries to fix its water crisis! An ugly building with good politics in Philly! Plus, Italy's boyish new leader and a walking tour of "crushingly boring" Silicon Valley! It's all in this week's best Urban Reads.

  • Obama unveiled a new transportation and infrastructure plan last week. Now he should raise the gas tax to pay for it [Grist]
  • 2026: That's the year we'll all have autonomous cars, according to Morgan Stanley [Slate]
  • Alexis Madrigal travels throughout California to get a first-hand look at the state's audacious new plan to gain water independence [The Atlantic]
  • Italy's new prime minister is sworn in: 39-year-old Matteo Renzi [The Guardian]
  • Detroit's long history as a glass manufacturing city may help its rebirth [Jaunt]
  • Can L.A.'s wacky Hayden Tract, currently a whimsical office park that's largely the vision of a single designer and developer, ever be more than an architectural folly? [Curbed LA]
  • "As a human landscape, it's a crushingly boring sunny suburban slab of freeways, fast food, traffic, and long smoggy boulevards of faded retail sprawling out to endless housing developments of sand-colored stucco boxes." A walking tour of Silicon Valley [Gawker]
  • How Google is slowly but surely taking over the city of Mountain View: They even just bought an airport [The Verge]
  • Good urbanism, bad architecture: A new Mormon church development in Philadelphia achieves its civic goals, but it's horrifically ugly [The Inquirer]
  • Suck it Leo DiCaprio: Ed Begley Jr. took the subway to the Oscars last night [A Walker in LA]

Opening image courtesy Emmanuel Lubezkiwho won Best Cinematographer for Gravity last night—and who you can follow on Instagram. Got a photo of your own you'd like us to use in our next link round-up? Tag it #gizmodocities and we'll be in touch if we want to post.

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My own thoughts:
-The Federal gas tax was never indexed for inflation. This was a mistake because the cost of building/maintaining roads changes over time. IMO, this should be addressed.
-Autonomous vehicles are the future IMO. Small, light, aerodynamic vehicles that are driven by computers with EV/PHEV/HEV drivetrains are capable of really phenomenal fuel economy figures (60-100+mpg equivalent). Getting that sort of passenger fuel economy out of mass transit requires very high capacity factors that not many cities in the U.S can achieve.
-With that last point in mind, I think we should avoid mass transit projects for a while and have a massive "cash for clunkers" type program starting around 2020 with the idea being to replace a huge chunk of the country's fleet with autonomous vehicles with very efficient designs and drivetrains. Between now and then, shore up our roads/bridges with gas tax proceeds or deficit stimulus spending.