Small Cities

Car Wars: Should Autos Rule The Road? Part I

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We've decided to become a one car family. Denver has proven to be the ideal locale for this experiment, of sorts. The "Mile High City," and particularly our new neighborhood, provide a range of mobility options beyond the four-wheel variety for trekking from place to place.

The metropolitan area is naturally blessed with a mobility-favorable landscape. It is approximately 10 miles by 10 miles. More importantly, our neighborhood possesses what I affectionately refer to as “accessible proximity” to local amenities such as grocery stores, coffee houses, parks, and specialty shopping centers. The immediate area is not only safe, it's engaging in its physical and social makeup, with stately homes and troves of dog-walkers along suburban style streets.  read more »

Greetings From Recoveryland: Ten Places to Watch Coming Out of the Recession

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Like a massive tornado, the Great Recession up-ended the topography of America. But even as vast parts of the country were laid low, some cities withstood the storm and could emerge even stronger and shinier than before. So, where exactly are these Oz-like destinations along the road to recovery? If you said Kansas, you’re not far off. Try Oklahoma. Or Texas. Or Iowa. Not only did the economic twister of the last two years largely spare Tornado Alley, it actually may have helped improve the landscape.  read more »

Religious Freedom or A Tax-Free Ride?

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The furor over a mosque in Manhattan has swirled around issues of personal freedom and collective tolerance. But very little of the discussion has focused on the pros and cons of construction of places of worship in our cities and suburbs, or on their tax status. In a country that displays high rates of worship and has a growing population, it’s to be expected that religious spaces would be on the increase. Yet, like all things that are added to the built environment, churches, synagogues, temples and even meeting halls can have a negative impact on those who live in the area.  read more »

Political Decisions Matter in State Economic Performance

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California has pending legislation, AB 2529, to require an economic impact analysis of proposed new regulation. Its opponents correctly point out that AB 2529 will delay and increase the cost of new regulation. There will be lawsuits and arguments over the proper methodology and over assumptions. It is not easy to complete a thorough and unbiased economic impact analysis.

Should California incur the costs and delays of economic impact studies?  read more »

Iowa's Agro-Metro Future

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When Brent Richardson, a field rep for Cadillac, was told he'd been transferred to Des Moines, he assumed he'd be spending the next year in a small town environment. Des Moines turned out to have much more bustle than he expected. The city had a robust insurance sector among its diverse industries. And the lifestyle was very similar to what he was able to live in big city suburbs like Naperville, Illinois or Bellingham, Massachusetts. Steeped in a decade of Farm Aid concerts, he also expected the surrounding rural areas to be populated with hardscrabble homesteaders struggling to hang on. Instead, he discovered that farming was big business – and, these days in particular, reasonably profitable. And some of those Iowa farmers turned out to be Cadillac buyers.  read more »

Why Housing Will Come Back

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Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than  homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.  read more »

Cities: Size Does Not Matter Much Anymore

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The heart and brain are certainly not the largest organs in the human body, but they are arguably the most important. Why? The heart, through a miles-long network of capillaries, keeps every part of the body supplied with nutrients, and the brain, through an equally extensive network of nerves, provides instructions to every part of the body about what to do with those nutrients. They are important not because they are big, but because they are connected to everything else.  read more »

Where’s Next: November May Determine Regional Winners

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As the recovery begins, albeit fitfully, where can we expect growth in jobs, incomes and, most importantly, middle class opportunities? In the US there are two emerging “new” economies, one largely promoted by the Administration and the other more grounded in longer-term market and demographic forces.  read more »

A Mass Transit New England Ramble

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To escape the summer crowds in the Hamptons, I rode the S92 bus (fare $1.50) for almost three hours, as it cruised the south and north forks of Long Island, before leaving me at the ferry that connects Orient Point to New London, Connecticut.

I might end up late to some meetings, but this way I could monitor the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, at least as it pertains to the more than $8 billion earmarked for high-speed trains, if not buses and ferries.

Not many Hampton People leave on a local bus, which in this case was filled with Latino day laborers, giving it the air of a John Steinbeck novel. I was headed to New England, and I wanted to see if I could make a circuit to Providence, Boston, Amherst, and Keene entirely on public transportation.

Conclusion: Mass transit works better as a White House sound bite than as a way to get around New England.  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 »