Small Cities

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 »

A Localist Solution

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By Richard Reep

“There is a great deal of historical evidence to suggest that a society which loses its identity with posterity and which loses its positive image of the future loses also its capacity to deal with present problems, and soon falls apart.”
--Kenneth Boulding, economist and philosopher (1966)

Written in the depths of the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation appeared imminent, if not inevitable to some, Boulding’s words remain applicable to today’s popular culture. Increasingly unable to imagine a positive future since the 1990s, we have largely replaced the end of the nuclear threat with the beginning of global warming, among other environmental threats. Others have raised the spectre of Chinese global domination or a prolonged and destructive jihad from the Islamic world.  read more »

Guys Gone Wild: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Begins

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Yesterday marked the opening of the outrageous phenomenon known as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a week-long, $987 million party for about 500,000 people. Every year in early August my sleepy hometown, Sturgis, population 6,500, hosts a half million biking enthusiasts who swarm here for a combination carnival, racing event, party, music festival, and shopping mall.  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 »

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 »

SPECIAL REPORT: Move to Suburbs (and Beyond) Continues

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Anyone who challenges the notion that the long predicted exodus of people from the suburbs to the city has been wildly overstated is sure to generate some backlash from urban boosters. Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution contends in a New Republic column that "head counts" better reveal city trends than property trends or the massive condo bust.  read more »

The Economic Significance of Village Markets

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Flea markets and garage sales have been around for years. But for most New Zealanders, produce markets have been associated with old European villages, or the ethnic markets of Hong Kong and other exotic locations. Village markets focus on locally made crafts, while Flea Markets are essentially centralized garage sales.  read more »

Why the Great Plains are Great Once Again

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On a drizzly, warm June night, the bars, galleries, and restaurants along Broadway are packed with young revelers. Traffic moves slowly, as drivers look for parking. The bar at the Donaldson, a boutique hotel, is so packed with stylish patrons that I can’t get a drink. My friend, a local, and I head over to Monte’s, a trendy Italian place down the street. We watch a group of attractive 30-something blondes share a table and gossip. They look like the cast of the latest Housewives series.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint

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There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »