Planning

Livability and All That

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Livability is one of those once innocuous words, like sustainability, that now receive almost unquestioned acceptance in the bureaucracy, academia and the media. After all, words like sustainability and livability have no acceptable negative form. Who could be in favor of anything unlivable, insensitive, unhealthy or unsustainable?  read more »

New Index Estimates New House Cost Impact of Land Regulation

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In recent decades, an unprecedented variation has developed in the price of new tract housing on the fringe of US metropolitan markets. Nearly all of this difference is in costs other than site preparation and construction, which indicates rising land and regulation costs.  read more »

The Privatization-Industrial Complex

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“I think this is just the latest way for people to make money off state and local governments. This is the new way the investment banks, their lawyers, and consultants squeeze the taxpayers....They’re going around making these deals, and it’s very lucrative. It’s like a circus coming to town.” - Clint Krislov

Privatization has long been advocated by many conservatives as a good government measure. Traditionally, privatization was used a tool that subjects government monopolies to competition from the marketplace, driving down costs and improving quality of service. Privatization pioneer Steve Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and now deputy mayor of New York City, used to apply what he called the “Yellow Pages test.” If he could open the Yellow Pages and find several companies providing a service, he wondered why government should be in that business.  read more »

Living In Denial About Transportation Funding

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The reaction of various advocacy groups to President Obama’s recent call for a $50 billion stimulus spending plan for transportation infrastructure was predictable. They applauded the President’s initiative and thought that Congress should promptly approve the spending request. The benefits of investing in infrastructure are undisputable and the need for funds is urgent and compelling, they (or their press releases) proclaimed.  read more »

The EPA: Leading Into A Rain Garden?

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Newly-installed solar Panels on the White House are an obvious signal that this administration wants to lead by example. Conservatives will no doubt find ways to ridicule the panels, and liberals will praise them as a display to the world that we are a green nation. About one year ago, on Oct. 5, 2009, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.” Like the white house solar panels, this EO also is intended to urge federal agencies to lead by example.  read more »

London Special Report: Britain Drifts South – and Why Not?

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The British Broadcasting Corporation wants 1500 of its staff to move to its new ”MediaCity” headquarters in Salford, near Manchester in northwest England. The Corporation, they say with some justification, is too southern, too much part of the metropolitan elite. The move ”addresses concerns that the organisation is not fully representative of the peoples of the UK.”

On the surface it looks like a good deal. On top of a £5000 payment, they have been offered £350 for each house-hunting journey as well as removal costs, a guaranteed house purchase scheme and and even £3,000 for new carpets and curtains. Other benefits include help securing jobs for spouses or partners jobs in the area and specialist help with children's schooling.  read more »

The Hudson Tunnel: Issues for New Jersey

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sent shockwaves through the transportation industry on last Thursday when he cancelled the under-construction ARC (Access to the Regional Core) rail tunnel under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York (Manhattan).  read more »

Aussie Urban Myths

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Urban planning in Australia is lost in a dense fog of presumption and theory. What’s needed is to toss out the hype and to illuminate some of the common planning myths for what they really are: impediments to progress.

An example of planning hype occurred not long ago when ten urban academics loudly criticised the Victorian government’s decision to develop about 40,000 hectares of new land on Melbourne's fringe, calling the decision short-sighted and unsustainable.  read more »

Portland Metro's Competitiveness Problem

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Portland Metro's president, David Bragdon, recently resigned to take a position with New York’s Bloomberg administration. Bragdon was nearing the end of his second elected term and ineligible for another term. Metro is the three county (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) planning agency that oversees Portland's land use planning and transportation policies, among the most stringent and pro-transit in the nation.  read more »

Why We Have to Learn to Love the Subdivision – Again

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When did anyone last hear officials and professionals talking enthusiastically about the social and economic benefits resulting from the subdivision of land to create secure, clean and tradable title?  read more »