Suburbs

Personal Rapid Transit: Twenty-First Century Transport?

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Recently I had the chance to visit Taxi 2000. This Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) company is based just minutes from my office in Minneapolis. I’m no expert on rail systems, but I’ve always believed that an elevated system that can run freely over existing right-of-ways makes more sense than an antiquated system based on nearly 200 hundred year old technology.  read more »

Detroit Needs a Bolder Plan

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The Brookings Institution recently unveiled “The Detroit Project”, a plan to revive Detroit, in the New Republic. Brookings' plan has good elements and recognizes some important realities, but also has key gaps. It relies excessively on industrial policy and conventional approaches that are unlikely to drive a real turnaround in America's most troubled big city.  read more »

What To Look For In Healthcare Reform: Location, Location, Location

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A Reuters article that was widely picked up around the globe recently raised the question, Are Doctors What Ails US Healthcare? Comparing the New York suburb of White Plains to Bakersfield, California, the article uses the evergreen two-Americas paradigm to discuss disparities in health care.  read more »

Demographics May Be Destiny, but Mind the Assumptions

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Demographic projections have become an essential tool of national, state and local governments, international agencies, and private businesses. The first step in planning for the future is to get a picture of what the terrain is going to look like when you get there. That’s mainly what I do for clients, audiences and subscribers, and demographics provide the frame (like assembling all the straight-edge pieces of a jigsaw puzzle first).  read more »

There is no "Free Market" Housing Solution

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The common line used by advocates of housing affordability has been that the solution lies in “free markets”. Yet this "free market" solution does not address the fundamental problem which is really a political one.

This true fundamental problem is particularly evident here in Britain, the leader in house price inflation and housing financial bubbles since the 1970s. In their recent report Global capital markets, the McKinsey Global Institute has confirmed what has been shown in recent Demographia surveys.  read more »

Capping Emissions, Trading On The Future

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Whatever the results of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, one thing is for sure: Draconian reductions on carbon emissions will be tacitly accepted by the most developed economies and sloughed off by many developing ones. In essence, emerging economies get to cut their "carbon" intensity--a natural product of their economic evolution--while we get to cut our throats.

The logic behind this prediction goes something like this. Since the West created the industrial revolution and the greenhouse gases that supposedly caused this "crisis," it's our obligation to take much of the burden for cleaning them up.  read more »

When Granny Comes Marching Home Again... Multi-Generational Housing

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During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2,399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.

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The driveway tells the story. The traditional two-story 2,200 square foot suburban home has a two-car attached garage. Today’s multi-generational families fill the garage, the driveway and often also occupy the curb in front of the home. The economic crisis that is transforming America is also changing the way we live. The outcome will change the way America views its housing needs for the balance of the 21st Century.  read more »

A Return to the City or a New Divide in the Nation's Capital Region?

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Census data continue to suggest that fringe areas still grow faster than cities, but some have continued to argue that the flight to the suburbs has ended, or at least slowed, and that we are experiencing a resurgence of urban living. In a 2005 article for the Journal of the American Planning Association, Robert Fishman predicts a new pattern of migration – a so-called Fifth Migration – that will revitalize inner core neighborhoods that were depopulated through decades of suburbanization. In a 2004 study of the New York region, James W. Hughes and Joseph J.  read more »

The Infrastructure Canard

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One of the principal arguments used against suburbanization is that its infrastructure is too expensive to provide. As a result, planners around the high income world have sought to draw boundaries around growing urban areas, claiming that this approach is less costly and that it allows current infrastructure to be more efficiently used.

Like so many of the arguments (a more appropriate term would be “excuse”) used to frustrate the clear preferences about where people want to live and work, the infrastructure canard holds little water upon examination.  read more »

So Much for Evidence-Based Planning

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Has evidence-based planning fallen from grace in favour of catchy slogans and untested assumptions? In the case of urban planning, arguably that is just what’s happened. The evidence, in Australia at least, is worrying.

“We must get people out of cars and onto public transport.” “We must stop urban sprawl and the consumption of valuable land.” “We must build higher density communities to achieve sustainable environmental outcomes.” Phrases like this are now de rigueur across many discussions about urban planning in the media, in politics and in regulatory circles in Australia. They are rarely challenged on the basis of what the actual social, economic or scientific evidence is really saying.  read more »