Demographics

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare

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Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower, coming in at 7.1 and 7.0 respectively. While there are many factors that make Vancouver a naturally expensive market, there are a number of land use regulations that contribute to the high housing costs.  read more »

Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Dense Cities, are the Future

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The human world is fast becoming an urban world -- and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we're heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space.  read more »

New York Commuting Profile: From Monocentrism to Edgeless City

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The US Bureau of the Census has just released detailed county to county and place (municipality) to place work trip flow tables. This new data is the most comprehensive since the 2000 census and covers 2006 to 2008.

The county to county data is particularly useful for analysis in the nation's largest metropolitan area (Note 1), New York. The New York metropolitan area has more than 19 million people and stretches across 6,700 square miles of land area, one half of it in the urban area, which is the urban footprint that includes all areas, including suburbs, in the continuous urbanization (3,350 square miles) and the other half rural (Note 2).  read more »

Millennials Are Looking for Something Completely Different

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As the country’s political distemper grows, many commentators, reflecting their own generational biases, mistakenly assume that voters are looking for less government as the solution to the nation’s ills. But survey research data from Washington think tank, NDN, shows that a majority of Americans (54%), and particularly the country’s youngest generation, Millennials, born 1982-2003, (58%), actually favor a more active government, rather than one that “stays out of society and the economy.”  read more »

Mass Transit: The Great Train Robbery

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Last month promoters of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Los Angeles rail projects, both past and future, held a party to celebrate their "success." Although this may well have been justified for transit-builders and urban land speculators, there may be far less call for celebration among L.A.'s beleaguered commuters.

Despite promises that the $8 billion invested in rail lines over the past two decades would lessen L.A.'s traffic congestion and reshape how Angelenos get to work, the sad reality is that there has been no increase in MTA transit ridership since before the rail expansion began in 1985.  read more »

Melbourne: Government Seeking Housing Affordability

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Once a country known as “lucky” for its affordable quality of life, Australia has achieved legendary status as a place where public policies have destroyed housing affordability for the middle class. Draconian land rationing policies (called "urban consolidation" in Australia and more generally "compact city" policy or "smart growth"), have made it virtually illegal to build houses outside tightly drawn urban growth boundaries that leave virtually no room for new construction beyond the urban fringe.  read more »

Resort Towns Becoming Neo-Company Towns

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Over the past few years resort communities - communities ideal for a ski vacation, a beach week, a hiking excursion or the like - have been hard hit by the downturn in real estate.

The key question is how these communities can be revived. If the issues involved are successfully addressed head-on, these small towns are able to provide significant amounts of affordable housing, viable and productive public transportation networks, and public functions such as parks, schools, police, and fire, despite limited financial and physical resources.  read more »

A New War Between The States

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Nearly a century and half since the United States last divided, a new "irrepressible conflict" is brewing between the states. It revolves around the expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local prerogatives. It also reflects a growing economic divide, arguably more important than the much discussed ideological one, between very different regional economies.  read more »

Going Underground in Australia

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Just over a decade ago, governments in Australia were immune to calls for accelerated infrastructure investment in our major urban centres. Plans for strategic reinvestment were rare. Much has changed in that time, maybe too much. It seems that enthusiasm for major urban infrastructure now runs ahead of impartial assessment of the cost, versus the claimed benefits. A proposed $8.2 billion underground rail loop for Brisbane, along with a new underground station for its busy downtown, provides one example of an over exuberant propensity to spend.  read more »

Chickens from Wal-Mart?

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As I arrived for a visit, my 90 year old father was perusing ads from his favorite big box store for chicken parts. Seizing the moment that all children savor, I sought to impress him with my declaration: "I buy my chicken parts – albeit at higher prices – at the natural foods store; you know daddy, where the chickens ate naturally off the barn yard floor like they did when you were a boy"? Not missing a beat and dashing my hope for an "at a boy," he retorted: "I saw what those chickens ate off the barnyard floor and I'll buy my chickens at Walmart(s)!"  read more »