From Jurisdictional to Functional Analysis of Urban Cores & Suburbs


The 52 major metropolitan areas of the United States are, in aggregate, approximately 86 percent suburban or exurban in function. This is the conclusion from our new City Sector Model, which divides all major metropolitan zip codes into four functional categories, based on urban form, population density and urban travel behavior. The categories are (1) Pre-Auto Urban Core, (2) Auto Suburban: Earlier, (3) Auto Suburban: Later and (4) Auto Exurban.  read more »

From Anecdotes to Data: Core & Suburban Growth Trends 2010-2013


According to the Wall Street Journal, there are "Signs of a Suburban Comeback." This is a turnaround from the typical media coverage of US population estimates in recent years, which have more often than not heralded a "return to the cities" generally more rooted in anecdote than data.

There were always at least two problems with the "return to the city" thesis. First of all, most people who live in the suburbs came from areas outside metropolitan areas and they couldn't return to where they had never lived (see Cities and Suburbs: The Unexpected Truth). More importantly, in every year for which there is data, the net inward migration to suburbs has been far greater than to the core counties, which have nearly always had net outward migration (see Special Report: 2013 Metropolitan Area Population Estimates. Under these conditions, there could not have been net migration from the suburbs to the core municipalities.  read more »

May the (Insidious) Force Be With You

detroit alter rd.jpg
Google Earth pic to the left of the boundary between Detroit and suburban Grosse Pointe Park, MI. Alter Road (cutting from upper left to lower right) is the boundary between the two. Take note of the differences in vacant land between Detroit (on the left) and Grosse Pointe Park (on the right).
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Thinking About Housing in the Northwest


With one of the most successful economies in the nation, the real estate news in the Pacific Northwest is positive and gives hope for a housing sector recovery, albeit at different rates in different markets. CNNMoney reports that from the third quarter in 2012 to the third quarter in 2013, the median home price in the Seattle-Bellevue and Everett area increased by 13.7%. The forecast for changes from the third quarter in 2013 to the third quarter in 2014 is another 5.2%.  read more »

The New Downtown Los Angeles


There was a time when downtown Los Angeles was the commercial center of Southern California. According to Robert Fogelson, writing in his classic Downtown: Its Rise and Fall (1880-1950)"nearly half" of Los Angeles residents went downtown every day in the middle 1920s. A time traveler from 1925 might think that to still be the case, with the concentration of tall buildings, and the frequent press reports about downtown’s resurgence.    read more »

Focusing on People, Not Sprawl


For seven decades urban planners have been seeking to force higher urban population densities through urban containment policies. The object is to combat "urban sprawl," which is the theological (or ideological) term applied to the organic phenomenon of urban expansion. This has come at considerable cost, as house prices have materially increased relative to incomes, which is to be expected from urban containment strategies that ration land (and thus raise its price, all things being equal).  read more »

Work Access in the Non-centered San Francisco Bay Area


The San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area or CSA) has a superior access to work systems, including its important work at home element. The freeway system provides primary access between all points, importantly supplemented by arterial streets, and accounts for nearly 70 percent of all work trips.  read more »

Urban Planning 101


Former World Bank principal planner Alain Bertaud has performed an important service that should provide a much needed midcourse correction to urban planning around the world. Bertaud returns to the fundamentals in his "Cities as Labor Markets."  read more »

We Had To Destroy the City In Order to Save It


As housing prices and rents soar out of control in tightly regulated cities like San Francisco and New York, many people have called for a significant loosening of zoning rules to permit greater densification. Many policies contribute to unaffordable housing, including rent control, historic districts, eminent domain abuse, and building codes, but zoning puts an absolute cap on dwelling units per acre thus is generally part of any solution to the supply problem.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: The San Francisco Bay Area


Despite planning efforts to restrict it, the Bay Area  continues to disperse. For decades, nearly all population and employment growth in the San Jose-San Francisco Combined Statistical Area has been in the suburbs, rather than in the core cities of San Francisco and Oakland. The CSA (Note) is composed of seven adjacent metropolitan areas (San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Napa, and Stockton). A similar expansion also occurred in the New York CSA.  read more »