Chicago's Planning Strategy: Hot or Not?

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The City of Broad Shoulders may have two faces, but how will it age?

This was the essence of the question that the Chicago Tribune was asking in October of 2013 when it urged readers to re-envision the city’s original 1909 plan in a modern context. In the 115 years since, and especially recently, Chicago has become a glitzy glass and steel mecca for Midwest yuppies. It's also become an unfortunate poster child for corruption, financial struggles, urban violence, and poor schools. It’s a city whose two reputations could hardly be more different.  read more »

New York, Legacy Cities Dominate Transit Urban Core Gains


Much attention has been given the increase in transit use in America. In context, the gains have been small, and very concentrated (see: No Fundamental Shift to Transit, Not Even a Shift). Much of the gain has been in the urban cores, which house only 14 percent of metropolitan area population.  read more »

Is Something Wrong With Chicago’s Suburbs?


I previously talked about Connecticut becoming a suburban corporate wasteland as well as the rise of the executive headquarters in major global city downtowns.  read more »

May the (Insidious) Force Be With You

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Google Earth pic to the left of the boundary between Detroit and suburban Grosse Pointe Park, MI. Alter Road (cutting from upper left to lower right) is the boundary between the two. Take note of the differences in vacant land between Detroit (on the left) and Grosse Pointe Park (on the right).
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New Central Business District Employment and Transit Commuting Data


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 »

No Fundamental Shift to Transit: Not Even a Shift


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 »

Welcome to Chicagoland


As part of his plan to boost sagging ratings at the network, CNN chief Jeff Zucker commissioned an eight part reality series about Chicago and its mayor called Chicagoland that premiers tonight at 10pm ET. The show is produced by the same people who did the Brick City series about Newark Mayor Cory Booker, with support from mega-star executive producer Robert Redford.  read more »

Are Special Service Districts a Boon or a Bane?


America’s cities have been under fiscal pressure for an extended period of time. To cope with this, and better manage assets, they’ve increasingly turned to various forms of special purpose districts or entities for service delivery. Traditional independent service districts such as sewer districts or transit districts were often designed to circumvent bonding limits or to deliver services regionally, so were larger in scale. These newer service districts are much smaller in scope. They consist of two basic components:  read more »

To Rebuild, the Midwest Must Face Its Real and Severe Problems


Despite well-publicized problems that earned it the nickname of the “Rust Belt”, on paper the Midwest possesses some formidable strengths. These include the largest concentration of engineers in America, world class educational institutions, a plethora of headquarters of global champions ranging from Proctor and Gamble to Caterpillar to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world’s greatest reserves of fresh water, and an expanding immigrant population.  read more »

Driving Alone Dominates 2007-2012 Commuting Trend


New data from the American Community Survey makes it possible to review the trend in mode of access to employment in the United States over the past five years. This year, 2012, represents the fifth annual installment of complete American Community Survey data. This is also a significant period, because the 2007 was a year before the Lehman Brothers collapse that triggered the Great Financial crisis, while gasoline prices increased about a third between 2007 and 2012.  read more »