Suburbs

Yes, We Do Need to Build More Roads

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Road are clearly out of fashion in urban planning circles. Conventional wisdom now decries roads in favor of public transit, walking or biking in developments designed to mimic traditional 19th century urbanism. Common refrains are “we can't build our way out of congestion” or “widening roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Also frequently noted is the vehicle miles traveled has – at least until recently – outpaced population growth.  read more »

Faith-Based City Planning: Exorcising the Suburban Dream

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We're coming to the end of the season when we focus a great deal of attention on faith. What is faith? The Biblical definition calls it the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Humans have the capacity to firmly believe in something that cannot be explained by reason and is not visibly evident. Faith is the basis of the world's major religions, and often is a cause for war, and today, terrorism. But though the season of faith may be winding down, there is still a place where faith remains strong year round: It is often the basis of the way we plan our communities.  read more »

Toronto: Three Cities in More than One Way

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The issue of income disparity in Toronto has once again been brought into the public eye by a December 15th report by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski. The report, “The Three Cities Within Toronto,” points to a growing disparity in incomes between Downtown Toronto, the inner suburbs, and the outer suburbs of the city. The report demonstrates that between 1970 and 2005 the residents of the once prosperous outer suburbs have been losing ground compared to the now wealthy downtown core. The results for the inner suburbs have been mixed.  read more »

Belly-Up In The Burbs: Bank-Owned Developments

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In 2009, the number of repossessed autos increased to 1.9 million. The number of homes under foreclosure varies from month to month, but the 2009 total was about 2.8 million. For 2010, it seems that a million new foreclosed homes would be conservative, with a large percentage in California. Miss a few payments on an auto loan and you may wake up to an empty driveway.  read more »

Could the Dallas Way be the Right Way?

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Dallas was George W. Bush’s first choice for a retirement destination but it gets low approval ratings elsewhere. A recent poll of readers of American Style magazine rated Dallas only 24th out of 25 large American cities as an arts destination. It came in immediately behind those well-known cultural magnets Milwaukee and Las Vegas, and ahead of only Jacksonville FL, even though it dwarfs all three places in terms of population, arts institutions and urban amenities. An apparently typical assessment residing in the blogosphere states flatly “God I hate Dallas.  read more »

Love and the City

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It has been said that the modern city is soulless, that it is heartless, and that it is brutal. The modern city represents in its scale and complexity one of the most extraordinary of human inventions, but there is also no doubt that everywhere in the world it is also one of our biggest failures.

The dysfunction of a city in the past was an inconvenience. The dysfunction of a city in the future will be a profound disaster for that city and, ironically, a profound opportunity for another city, of a smarter city. It will be an opportunity for a city that has found out how to position itself better in the world of cities, but more importantly in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.  read more »

The Rise of the Efficient City

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Smaller, more nimble urban regions promise a better life than the congested megalopolis.

Most of the world's population now lives in cities. To many academics, planners and developers, that means that the future will be dominated by what urban theorist Saskia Sassen calls "new geographies of centrality." According to this view, dense, urban centers with populations in excess of 20 million—such as metropolitan Tokyo, New Delhi, Sao Paolo and New York—are best suited to control the commanding heights of global economics and culture in the coming epoch.  read more »

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation

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In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition.  read more »

Amtrak Fails To Weather The Storms

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Why do I persist in riding Amtrak, the short name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a company originally owned by the freight railways, but now subsidized by Congress and run like a Russian bureaucracy, complete with late trains, sullen employees, myriad petty regulations, budget deficits, cold coffee, feather bedding, broken seats, clogged toilets, rail cars that feel like buses, and a schedule that serves the interests of congressmen, lobbyists, unions, budget stimulators, and small-town mayors, but rarely passengers?  read more »

Car Wars: Should Autos Rule The Road? Part II

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We have a severe drug problem, we've been told, that mostly affects suburbanites. The dangerous drug is not taken by mouth, nor by injection, yet it is used daily by every family member and must be stopped before we, as a nation, are utterly destroyed. According to many experts, our “dependence” on cars must stop.  read more »