Photographs of downtown skylines are often the "signature" of major metropolitan areas, as my former Amtrak Reform Council colleague and then Mayor of Milwaukee (later President and CEO of the Congress of New Urbanism) John Norquist has rightly said. The cluster of high rise office towers in the central business district (CBD) is often so spectacular – certainly compared with an edge city development or suburban strip center – as to give the impression of virtual dominance. I have often asked audiences to guess how much of a metropolitan area's employment is in the CBD. Answers of 50 percent to 80 percent are not unusual. read more »
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is out with news of higher transit ridership. APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy characterizes the new figures as indicating "a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities.” Others even characterized the results as indicating "shifting consumer preferences." The data shows either view to be an exaggeration.
1935 and 2013 read more »
The San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area or CSA) has a superior access to work systems, including its important work at home element. The freeway system provides primary access between all points, importantly supplemented by arterial streets, and accounts for nearly 70 percent of all work trips. read more »
Former World Bank principal planner Alain Bertaud has performed an important service that should provide a much needed midcourse correction to urban planning around the world. Bertaud returns to the fundamentals in his "Cities as Labor Markets." read more »
This is the second of a two-part series discussing Charles Mongomery's Happy City. Read part one here.
‘The system that built sprawl’
Montgomery faces the hurdle of explaining why, if low-density suburbs cause unhappiness, so many millions of people, over so many decades, across several countries, flocked to that way of life. As he writes, ‘since 1940, almost all urban growth has actually been suburban.’ He must account for this fact, even though it means little to him personally. For the green-tinged intelligentsia, working and middle-class people are pawns who rarely think for themselves. read more »
California's economy may be on the mend, but prospects for continued growth are severely constrained by the increasing obsolescence of the state's basic infrastructure. Once an unquestioned leader in constructing new roads, water systems, power generation and building our human capital, California is relentlessly slipping behind other states, including some with much lower tax and regulatory burdens.
The indications of California's incipient senility can be found in a host of reports, including a recent one from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the state a “C” grade. read more »
Interstate 4. It is a unique highway which is cursed by many drivers in Central Florida, and many more who come here in search of rest and relaxation. While Californians raise all highways to royal status — Interstate 5, for one, is referred to as "the five", as if it were some kind of important personage — Floridians just call their central artery I-four. My decision to chronicle I-4 was sparked by a recent experience. Along with my family, I was caught in a traffic jam as we headed east on I-4 outside of Disney World. I have been stuck on this very spot many times. read more »
The recent publication of the United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2014 Annual Energy Outlook provides a good backdrop for examining the importance of current information in transportation and land-use planning. I have written about two recent cases in which urban plans were fatally flawed due to their reliance on outdated information. read more »
In a fit of what now appears to have been madness, over the last ten days I attempted to live the life of a small plastic figure in an architect’s model community. I wheeled my bike through railroad stations, and took eco-friendly cycle lanes. The goal was to use only a combination of trains and my bicycle to attend a series of meetings in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. read more »
California Judge Michael Kenny has barred state bond funding for the California high speed rail system, finding that “the state's High-Speed Rail Authority failed to follow voter-approved requirements designed to prevent reckless spending on the $68 billion project.” These protections had been an important in securing voter approval of a $10 billion bond issue in 2008. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters suggested that without the protections in Proposition 1A, the measure “probably would have failed” to obtain voter approval. read more »