Urban Issues

Don't be so Dense About Housing

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Southern California faces a crisis of confidence. A region that once imagined itself as a new model of urbanity – what the early 20th century minister and writer Dana Bartlett called “the better city” – is increasingly being told that, to succeed, it must abandon its old model and become something more akin to dense Eastern cities, or to Portland or San Francisco.

This has touched off a “density craze,” in which developers and regulators work overtime to create a future dramatically different from the region’s past. This kind of social engineering appeals to many pundits, planners and developers, but may scare the dickens out of many residents.  read more »

To Fight Inequality, Blue States Need To Shift Focus To Blue-Collar Jobs

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In the coming election, we will hear much, particularly from progressives, about inequality, poverty and racism. We already can see this in the pages of mainstream media, with increased calls for reparations for African-Americans, legalizing undocumented immigrants and a higher minimum wage.  read more »

Showing the Flag: The Transit Policy Failure

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David King has a point. In an article entitled "Why Public Transit Is Not Living Up to Its Social Contract: Too many agencies favor suburban commuters over inner-city riders," King, an assistant professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University notes that transit spends an inordinate share of its resources on suburban riders, short changing the core city riders who cost transit agencies far less to serve and are also far more numerous. He rightly attributes this to reliance on regional (metropolitan area) funding initiatives.  read more »

Long Island Needs Regionalism

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Eric Alexander, the Executive Director of Vision Long Island, seems to be popping up everywhere on Long Island these days. He was recently quoted in The Corridor Magazine’s transportation and infrastructure issue as saying: “Academic conversations about regionalism is a 90s thing.” Similar to his condemnation on “academic” commentary concerning the downtown redevelopment trend, Alexander made it clear in the piece that he feels a local, downtown-centric approach is the way to go.  read more »

A Tale of 273 Cities

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Since 1790, 273 cities have made an appearance on the list of the nation’s 100 largest places.  read more »

Detroit: A Chip off the Old Bulb

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Seven months after the announcement, it still seems like the largest municipal bankruptcy filing (at least up to this point) is the stuff of legend—the culminating event, after successive blunders.  The apex.  Or the nadir. No doubt those of us living here are guilty of a degree of chauvinism as we experience how it plays out firsthand, but it’s easy for anyone with even moderate media curiosity to see how much the city has hogged the headlines.  It may be for all the wrong reasons, but Detroit is prominent once again.  read more »

Large Urban Cores: Products of History

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Urban cores are much celebrated but in reality most of the population living in functional urban cores is strongly concentrated in just a handful of major metropolitan areas in the United States. This conclusion is based on an analysis using the City Sector Model, which uses functional characteristics, rather than municipal jurisdictions, to analyze urban core and suburban components of metropolitan areas.  read more »

Success and the City: Houston's Pro-growth Policies Producing an Urban Powerhouse

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David Wolff and David Hightower are driving down the partially completed Grand Parkway around Houston. The vast road, when completed, will add a third freeway loop around this booming, 600-square-mile Texas metropolis. Urban aesthetes on the ocean coasts tend to have a low opinion of the flat Texas landscape—and of Houston, in particular, which they see as a little slice of Hades: a hot, humid, and featureless expanse of flood-prone grassland, punctuated only by drab office towers and suburban tract houses. But Messrs.  read more »

There Will Be No Real Recovery Without The Middle Class

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What if they gave a recovery, and the middle class were never invited? Well, that’s an experiment we are running now, and, even with the recent strengthening of the jobs market, it’s not looking very good.

Over the last five years, Wall Street and the investor class have been on a bull run, but the economy has been, at best, torpid for the vast majority of the population. Despite blather about our “democratic capitalism,” stock ownership is increasingly concentrated with the wealthy as the middle class retrenches. The big returns that hedge funds, real estate trusts or venture capitalist receive are simply outside the reach of the vast majority.  read more »

Dispersing Millennials

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The very centers of urban cores in many major metropolitan areas are experiencing a resurgence of residential development, including new construction in volumes not seen for decades. There is a general impression, put forward by retro–urbanists (Note 1) and various press outlets that the urban core resurgence reflects a change in the living preferences of younger people – today's Millennials – who they claim are rejecting the suburban and exurban residential choices of their parents and grandparents.  read more »