Portland: A Model for National Policy?


United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Washington Post columnist George Will have been locked in debate over transit. Will called LaHood the “Secretary of Behavior Modification” for his policies intended to reduce car use, citing Portland’s strong transit and land use planning measures as a model for the nation.  read more »

Life After Sunrail


With their tails between their legs, Central Florida’s leaders returned from Tallahassee in early May without funding from the Florida Senate for Sunrail, the region’s proposed commuter rail system. This failure to convince the state Senate to fund Sunrail is a major political defeat for the 1.8 million people who were said to be served by this train.  read more »

Smart Growth? Or Not So Bright Idea?

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Smart Growth and New Urbanism have increasingly merged into a loosely aligned set of ideas. The benefits of this high-density housing viewpoint are fast becoming a ‘given’ to planners and city governments, but studies that promote the advantages often omit the obvious disadvantages. Here are some downsides that show a much different story:

Smart Growth or Dumb Idea?  read more »

Unsustainable Transit: New York City


When it comes to transit, as like many things in the United States, there is no place like New York City. The subways and buses of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) carry more than 40 percent of the nation’s transit rides (unlinked trips). To account for 40 percent of the nation’s ridership is quite an accomplishment inasmuch as the city represents less than 3 percent of the nation’s population.  read more »

Playing With Trains


The Obama administration appears to have established the development of high speed rail (HSR) as the most important plank of its transportation strategy. The effort may be popular with the media and planners, but it’s being promoted largely on the basis of overstatement and even misinformation.  read more »

Sydney: From World City to “Sick Man” of Australia


Americans have their “American Dream” of home ownership. Australians go one step further. They have a “Great Australian Dream” of home ownership. This was all part of a culture that celebrated its egalitarian ethos. Yet, to an even greater degree than in the United States, the “Dream” is in the process of being extinguished. It all started and is the worst in Sydney.

Sydney is Australia’s largest urban area, having passed Melbourne in the last half of the 19th century. With an urban area population of approximately 3.6 million, Sydney leads Melbourne by nearly 300,000.  read more »

Kansas City and the Great Plains is a Zone of Sanity


Over the past year, coverage of the economy appears like a soap opera written by a manic-depressive. Yet once you get away from the coasts – where unemployment is skyrocketing and economies collapsing – you enter what may be best to call the zone of sanity.

The zone starts somewhere in Texas and goes through much of the Great Plains all the way to the Mexican border. It covers a vast region where unemployment is relatively low, foreclosures still rare and much of the economy centers on the production of basic goods like foodstuffs, specialized equipment and energy.  read more »

Enough "Cowboy" Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies


The world has embarked upon a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a serious challenge that will require focused policies rooted in reality. Regrettably, the political process sometimes falls far short of that objective. This is particularly so in the states of California and Washington, where ideology has crowded out rational analysis and the adoption of what can only be seen as reckless “cowboy” policies.  read more »

Different Shades of Green


Last month marked the 15th anniversary of the settlement of Plotkin vs. General Electric, the landmark “greenwashing” lawsuit I filed in 1993. At the time, GE was misleading consumers by selling phony lookalike energy efficient light bulbs that were in fact just old fashioned incandescent wolves in green packaging.

I took no money from the case. But I required G.E. to make labeling changes and to pony up $3.25 million dollars in consumer refunds and donations to environmental and public service groups. The labeling changes made it easier for the manufacturers of real energy efficient light bulbs, which were just then entering the marketplace, to distinguish their products on the shelves.  read more »

The Former East Germany: Is It Time for Red Nostalgia?


2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany into one country. Germany was divided into two separate nations with competing economic and political ideologies. Now it’s time to reassess the results of this melding of two very different systems and the impact on the urban environment.

Emerging from the ashes as one of the world’s most powerful economies, Germany may be the quintessential example of the triumph of capitalism over communism. Yet now with Frankfurt’s powerful banking sector reeling from the global economic meltdown, reticent Marxists may well be coming out of the woods to proclaim the death of capitalism.  read more »