New York

Mass Transit: The Great Train Robbery

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Last month promoters of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Los Angeles rail projects, both past and future, held a party to celebrate their "success." Although this may well have been justified for transit-builders and urban land speculators, there may be far less call for celebration among L.A.'s beleaguered commuters.

Despite promises that the $8 billion invested in rail lines over the past two decades would lessen L.A.'s traffic congestion and reshape how Angelenos get to work, the sad reality is that there has been no increase in MTA transit ridership since before the rail expansion began in 1985.  read more »

Despite Transit's 2008 Peak, Longer Term Market Trend is Down: A 25 Year Report on Transit Ridership

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In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?

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For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?

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For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

When Saving 90% is Not Enough: The Transit Savings Report

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is publishing monthly Transit Savings Report to illustrate the purportedly great savings that can be achieved by giving up the car and traveling by transit instead. APTA compares the average cost of buying a monthly transit pass to replace a car, which is assumed to travel 15,000 miles annually.  read more »

Pondering Urban Authenticity: A look at the new book “Naked City"

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“If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake you are no longer authentic.”

– Jean-Paul Sartre

As the United States shifted from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy during the latter half of the 20th Century, former industrial cities suffered population losses to the suburbs and post-WWII boomtowns. Some of these cities were able to stay afloat while others went into permanent decline never to fully recover. Most experienced an increase in crime and a decrease in quality-of-life.  read more »

SPECIAL REPORT: Metropolitan Area Migration Mirrors Housing Affordability

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On schedule, the annual ritual occurred last week in which the Census Bureau releases population and migration estimates and the press announces that people are no longer moving to the Sun Belt. The coverage by The Wall Street Journal was typical of the media bias, with a headline “Sun Belt Loses its Shine.” In fact, the story is more complicated – and more revealing about future trends.

Domestic Migration Tracks Housing Affordability: There have been changes in domestic migration (people moving from one part of the country to another) trends in the last few years, but the principal association is with housing affordability.  read more »

Forced March To The Cities

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California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California "progressives" is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center

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At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

Eminent Domain as Central Planning

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Free markets are out of vogue. The unfortunate lesson that policymakers have learned over the past two years is that a big, brainy government that supposedly creates jobs is superior to irrational, faceless markets that just create catastrophic errors. So Washington has seized on the financial and economic crises to enlarge its role in managing the economy—controlling the insurance giant AIG, for example, and trying to maintain high housing prices through tax credits and “mortgage modification” programs.  read more »