Bangor or Bust: Navigating To Thanksgiving At Grandma's

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Everything that is the matter with America’s transportation and energy policies can be understood by attempting to travel with a family from New York City to Bangor, Maine.

I use Bangor for my example — although places like Louisville, Columbus, Lynchburg, and Wheeling would work just as well because — for better and for worse — I, (a New Yorker) married into a Maine family in the early 1980s. For the last twenty-five years I have devoted countless waking hours to plotting connections to family reunions, as I have once again done for this Thanksgiving.  read more »

It's A Mall World After All


If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region's largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India's expanding affluent class.

Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are "vanishing." But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.  read more »

A Canadian Autobahn


Canada is the largest high-income nation in the world without a comprehensive national freeway (autobahn, expressway or autoroute) system. Motorways are entirely grade separated roadways (no cross traffic), with four or more lanes (two or more in each direction) allowing travel that is unimpeded by traffic signals or stop signs.  read more »

Congress and the Administration Take Aim at Local Democracy


Local democracy has been a mainstay of the US political system. This is evident from the town hall governments in New England to the small towns that the majority of Americans choose to live in today.

In most states and metropolitan areas, substantial policy issues – such as zoning and land use decisions – are largely under the control of those who have a principal interest: local voters who actually live in the nation’s cities, towns, villages, townships and unincorporated county areas. This may be about to change.  read more »

Getting Real About “Green” Jobs


Over the past year, Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI) has been fielding questions from local planners (workforce boards, community colleges, and economic developers) on how to look at green jobs, particularly at the regional level. Perhaps nothing has been more hyped, or misunderstood, than the potential impact of this sector on local economies.

In order to wade through the rhetoric and often overblown expectations, we’ve been doing our best to link labor market data to potential green sectors so people can gain an understanding of trends, earnings, education levels, and skills associated with “green occupation clusters”. So far, we have made three general observations:  read more »

Numbers Don't Support Migration Exodus to "Cool Cities"


For the past decade a large coterie of pundits, prognosticators and their media camp followers have insisted that growth in America would be concentrated in places hip and cool, largely the bluish regions of the country.

Since the onset of the recession, which has hit many once-thriving Sun Belt hot spots, this chorus has grown bolder. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the "Next Youth-Magnet Cities" as drawn from the old "hip and cool" collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.  read more »

The Limits of Transit: Costly Dead-End


The proposed Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) fare increase and service cuts for next year are indicative of transit’s recurring budgetary problems, and not only in Chicago but nationwide. But in the Windy City, these moves have elicited an understandably negative public reaction since the city of Chicago depends on transit about as much as any city besides New York.  read more »

The White City


Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  read more »

On Cities, GHG Emissions, Apples & Oranges


Every day or so a new greenhouse gas emission report crosses my desk. Often these reports are very useful, other times they add little of value to the subject. The problem is separating the “wheat” from the “chaff.”

This dilemma is well illustrated by a paper called “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities,” authored by 10 academics. I had received notification of the paper from Science Daily, a useful website that provides notification of new research on a wide range of scientific subjects.  read more »

Germany's Role in the Green Energy Economy


Germany likes to brag about its green credentials. It is a source of pride and it is justified to a certain extent. The country, which is located on the same latitude as Canada, had the largest number of installed solar panels as of 2007.  read more »