The Limits Of The Green Machine


Environmentalism is strangely detached from the public's economic goals.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf--as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia--has added spring to the step of America's hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation--starting particularly under our original "green president," Richard Nixon--has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America's wild spaces.  read more »

Santa Fe-ing of the World, Bridging the Digital Divide


This is the second of a two-part piece. Read part one.

If we accept that many rich people are going to find attractive this scenario of dramatically different settlement patterns that feature new aggregation – widely dispersed – the question then becomes whether information technology will ever become a global influence on the built environment, shaping the way the middle class and even the working class live, the way railroads, jets, and automobiles did.  read more »

Santa Fe-ing of the World


This is part one of a two-part piece. Read Part two.

Human settlements are always shaped by whatever is the state of the art transportation device of the time. Shoe-leather and donkeys enabled the Jerusalem known by Jesus. Sixteen centuries later, when critical transportation has become horse-drawn wagons and ocean-going sail, you get places like Boston. Railroads yield Chicago – both the area around the “L” (intraurban rail) and the area that processed wealth from the hinterlands (the stockyards). The automobile results in places with multiple urban cores like Los Angeles. The jet passenger plane allows more places with such “edge cities” to rise in such hitherto inconvenient locations as Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Atlanta and now Sydney, Lagos, Cairo, Bangkok, Djakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.  read more »

Livable Communities and the DOT

US Dept of Transportation3916809758_84215e8ffc.jpg

“Fostering livable a transformative policy shift for U.S. DOT,” announced grandiloquently the Draft U.S. DOT Strategic Plan released for public comment on April 15, 2010. But what exactly does the Administration mean by “livability” and how does it intend to translate this vague rhetorical abstraction into a practical reality?  read more »

Houston: Model City


Do cities have a future? Pessimists point to industrial-era holdovers like Detroit and Cleveland. Urban boosters point to dense, expensive cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Yet if you want to see successful 21st-century urbanism, hop on down to Houston and the Lone Star State.

You won't be alone: Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the U.S. save the city's similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past decade Houston's population has grown by 24%--five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York. In that time it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the U.S., while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration.  read more »

Is It Game Over for Atlanta?


With growth slowing, a lack of infrastructure investment catching up with it, and rising competition in the neighborhood, the Capital of the New South is looking vulnerable.

Atlanta is arguably the greatest American urban growth story of the 20th century. In 1950, it was a sleepy state capital in a region of about a million people, not much different from Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Today, it's a teeming region of 5.5 million, the 9th largest in America, home to the world's busiest airport, a major subway system, and numerous corporations. Critically, it also has established itself as the country's premier African American hub at a time of black empowerment.  read more »

The Real State of Metropolitan America


The week opened with an important report on metropolitan demographics by the Brookings Institution, only to be followed by the Census Bureau's annual report on migration, which contained a different message than the Brookings report. We offer yet a third analysis, since both the Brookings and the Census Bureau reports classify up to one-sixth of suburban population as not being in the suburbs.  read more »

Australia: Housing Soars Down Under

'Sydney Lace' in Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales.iStock_000008960850XSmall.jpg

Finally, an important turning point has been reached for Australians in the housing market: on 22 April 2010 the Council of Australian Governments endorsed a new housing supply and affordability agenda.

The shift in attitude is long overdue. The population of Australia has passed the 22 million mark and is growing at 2.1 per cent per annum. Until now, planning policies based on higher densities have been seen as the solution for this population increase. Such policies are variously euphemistically termed “smart growth”, “urban consolidation” or, more recently, “urban renewal”.

The deleterious results of high-density policies on both people and the environment are becoming more and more apparent. Australian cities, especially Sydney, are starting to exhibit the downside effects of what might be the most aggressive high-density policies in the world.  read more »

When Saving 90% is Not Enough: The Transit Savings Report


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is publishing monthly Transit Savings Report to illustrate the purportedly great savings that can be achieved by giving up the car and traveling by transit instead. APTA compares the average cost of buying a monthly transit pass to replace a car, which is assumed to travel 15,000 miles annually.  read more »

The New E.D. -- Environmental Density

Suburb and undeveloped -iStock_000004526499XSmall.jpg

Developers often have an E.D. problem and are not even aware of it. No, not the type of E.D. temporarily cured with Viagra. Environmental Density — E.D. — is the measurement of the impact of man made construction on a site. In simple terms, E.D. is the average per acre volume of impervious surface due to land development construction. It has two very important impacts, one environmental, and one financial. One acre of land is 43,560 square feet. The lower the E.D. — square foot of impervious surface area divided by 43,560 — the lower the surface area of manmade structures that divert rain run-off, and the less environmental damage.  read more »