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Eco-Modernism, Meet Opportunity Urbanism

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California has always been friendly ground for new ideas and bold proposals. That was a good thing when California’s economic and social policies encouraged middle-class opportunity, entrepreneurship, and social mobility, way back in the 1960s. But the contemporary California political elite tends to pioneer policies that endanger the spirit of opportunity that once made California great.  read more »

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Light Rail in the Sun Belt is a Poor Fit


There is an effective lobby for building light rail, including in cities such as Houston. But why build light rail? To reduce car use? To improve mobility for low-income citizens? This certainly seems a worthwhile objective, with the thousands of core-city, low-income residents whose transit service cannot get them to most jobs in a reasonable period of time.

ut rather than accept the flackery that accompanies these projects, maybe we should focus on effectiveness, judged by ridership, and the impact of such expensive projects on the transportation of the transit-dependent.  read more »

Cities That Locate Art In Odd Places

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The city sidewalk today is pretty empty, with online shopping and social media having replaced shoe leather on pavement. Restrictions in the name of safety have also become more common since 9/11. One result of these trends is a movement called Art in Odd Places : the work of artists that use public space itself as a huge, blank canvas. Orlando is the most recent city to experiment in this fashion. This month, more than fifty artists there reasserted the right to an unfettered exchange of ideas in public space, reinventing the sidewalk.  read more »

Should Older Americans Live in Places Segregated from the Young?


Demographers frequently remind us that the United States is a rapidly aging country. From 2010 to 2040, we expect that the age-65-and-over population will more than double in size, from about 40 to 82 million. More than one in five residents will be in their later years. Reflecting our higher life expectancy, over 55% of this older group will be at least in their mid-70s.  read more »

Who Should Pay for the Transportation Infrastructure?


Urban regions are significantly more important than any one city located within them. Housing, transportation, economy, and politics help produce uneven local geographies that shape the individual identities of places and create the social landscapes we inherit and experience. As such, decisions made within one city can ripple through the entire urban region. When affordable housing is systematically ignored by one city, neighboring cities become destinations for those who cannot afford higher housing costs.  read more »

The Cities Americans Are Thronging To And Fleeing


Cities get ranked in numerous ways — by income, hipness, tech-savviness and livability — but there may be nothing more revealing about the shifting fortunes of our largest metropolitan areas than patterns of domestic migration.

Bright lights and culture may attract some, but people generally move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living, particularly affordable housing.  read more »

The Green Urbanization Myth


Once a fringe idea, the notion of using technology to allow humanity to “decouple” from nature is winning new attention, as a central element of what the Breakthrough Institute calls “ecomodernism.” The origins of the decoupling idea can be found in 20th century science fiction visions of domed or underground, climate-controlled, recycling-based cities separated by forests or deserts.  read more »

It's Becoming Springtime for Dictators


In a rare burst of independence and self-interest, the California Legislature, led by largely Latino and Inland Democrats, last month defeated Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to cut gasoline use in the state by 50 percent by 2030. These political leaders, backed by the leftovers of the once-powerful oil industry, scored points by suggesting that this goal would lead inevitably to much higher fuel prices and even state-imposed gas rationing.  read more »


Is This Hell or Indianapolis?


I’ve observed many times that cities outside of the very top tier almost always come across as generic, cheesy, and trying too hard in their marketing efforts. They highlight everything about their city that is pretty much a variant on things everybody else already has (beer, beards, bicycles, etc) while downplaying the things that truly reflect their community. Call it “aspirational genericism.”  read more »