Urban Issues

Escaping the Strait Jacket of "Place"

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We like to think of "place" as something positive, something that sets our patterns of living in a good way, but sometimes those patterns and forms become a strait jacket that keep our communities from evolving and growing. Sometimes you have to throw off that strait jacket, and Seattle, where 150,000 people have moved in the last 20 years, seems to be doing just that.  read more »

Economics Needed for People-Based Urban Planning: Alain Bertaud Book Review

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Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities (MIT Press), is particularly timely, because of the rising concern about the challenges facing middle-income households. The broad based affluence that followed World War II brought unprecedented affluence to many millions of people, principally in the high income nations. This also raised the standard of living for people living in or near poverty.  read more »

RTD’s Death Spiral

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Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has entered what is known in the transit industry as the Transit Death Spiral. Ridership has fallen 7 percent since 2015. This reduces the funds available to operate RTD buses and trains, so RTD has cut service and increased fares to be some of the highest in the nation.  read more »

Chinese Sci-Fi Writers Give Us A Glimpse Into China’s Dystopian Present And Future

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A thoroughly scientific dictatorship will never be overthrown — Aldous Huxley

In contemporary China, it’s hard to know what people outside the party dictatorship think about the future. As in the former Soviet Union, often the best guide may be not in the controlled media or cowed academia, but in the speculative wanderings of writers.  read more »

A Sprinkle of Stores – Wrestling With Jacobs’s Uncertainty

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In her 1961 book, Jacobs made daring observations about how the “good city” works. A good number of passages in the book dealt with safety, such as the following:

“The basic requisite for such surveillance [of the street] is a substantial quantity of stores and other public places sprinkled along the sidewalks of a district; enterprises and public places that are used by evening and night must be among them especially. Stores, bars and restaurants, as the chief examples, work in several different and complex ways to abet sidewalk safety.”  read more »

Los Angeles Rail: Ridership Decline Estimated at 42 Percent

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The Reason Foundation has just published an important review of transit in Los Angeles County, by transportation consultant Thomas A. Rubin and University of Southern California Professor James E. Moore II. A total of four reports have been released, under the title A Critical Review of Los Angeles Metro’s 28 by 2028 Plan. Links are provided at the end of this article. More reports are to follow.  read more »

The City Of Dallas Needs A Homebuilding Boom To Ensure Economic Success

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While the North Texas economy is booming, the core city of Dallas faces challenges bedeviling other cities: a dwindling middle class, bifurcation into neighborhoods of haves and have-nots, and an emerging home affordability problem.  read more »

Amazon: New York Caused the Divorce – Don’t Go Back

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Today’s big news is that New Yorkers are pleading with Amazon to reconsider its decision to halt its HQ2 project in their city. The Wall Street Journal reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been in contact with Amazon executives, urging them to rethink their decision to abandon plans for a headquarters campus – and 25,000 jobs – in Queens.  read more »

Cities Point the Way in Promoting Opportunity and Reducing Poverty

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American cities are laboratories of democracy. Their differences in policies and economic patterns shed considerable light on the challenge of promoting upward mobility and alleviating poverty. 

As we have studied America’s top 60 metropolitan areas over the last several months, five – Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland (Oregon), and Omaha – stand out for their success in delivering broad-based prosperity.  read more »

The Hardening of Chicago's Inequality

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Last week I was fortunate to be a part of a fantastic symposium, called Policies to Promote Inclusive Urban Growth. It was held in Dallas at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, and the event also served as the public release of a report which I worked on, Beyond Gentrification: Towards More Equitable Urban Growth, published by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (If you get a chance I encourage you to check out the video of the event, found at the first link above). The report took a look at recent development activity and their impacts in three very different cities: Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas.  read more »