Urban Issues

Mr. Rudd’s Unproductive Ideas on Urban Productivity


For urban planners, the compact city is a central dogma. All else hangs off it. There can be no planning without urban growth boundaries, the iron curtains beyond which urbanisation must cease.  read more »

The Real State of Metropolitan America


The week opened with an important report on metropolitan demographics by the Brookings Institution, only to be followed by the Census Bureau's annual report on migration, which contained a different message than the Brookings report. We offer yet a third analysis, since both the Brookings and the Census Bureau reports classify up to one-sixth of suburban population as not being in the suburbs.  read more »

City Rankings: An Alternative View

Cafe - Pause Cafe, Paris; 100% Aribica.jpg

Why is Austin, Texas the inevitable winner or runner-up on every ranking of the most “livable” cities in the United States? The downtown is a wasteland, the hip barbecue joints are dismal, and the bookstores, despite the population's admirable intellectual mix, are heavy with espresso westerns.

If Austin were in Europe, its place in the power rankings would be just ahead Bratislava but behind Faro, which, in turn, would be way down the list of great European cities.  read more »


Australia: Housing Soars Down Under

'Sydney Lace' in Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales.iStock_000008960850XSmall.jpg

Finally, an important turning point has been reached for Australians in the housing market: on 22 April 2010 the Council of Australian Governments endorsed a new housing supply and affordability agenda.

The shift in attitude is long overdue. The population of Australia has passed the 22 million mark and is growing at 2.1 per cent per annum. Until now, planning policies based on higher densities have been seen as the solution for this population increase. Such policies are variously euphemistically termed “smart growth”, “urban consolidation” or, more recently, “urban renewal”.

The deleterious results of high-density policies on both people and the environment are becoming more and more apparent. Australian cities, especially Sydney, are starting to exhibit the downside effects of what might be the most aggressive high-density policies in the world.  read more »

Shanghai: The Rise of the Global City


The opening of the World Expo heralds Shanghai’s coming of age, the rising economic might of China, and the financial power of Asia’s legendary metropolis.

But that’s only part of the story. The World Expo also reflects the rise of Shanghai as a global city and the intensity of competition among emerging Chinese mega-cities.  read more »

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


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 »

Arizona's Short-Sighted Immigration Bill


Arizona's recent passage of what is widely perceived as a harsh anti-immigrant bill reflects a growing tendency--in both political parties--to focus on the here and now, as opposed to the future. The effort to largely target Latino illegal aliens during a sharp recession may well gain votes among an angry, alienated majority population, but it could have unforeseen negative consequences over time.  read more »

Growing America: Demographics and Destiny


Over the next four decades, American governments will oversee a much larger and far more diverse population. As we gain upward of 100 million people, America will inevitably become a more complex, crowded and competitive place, but it will continue to remain highly dependent on its people's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.  read more »

California is Too Big To Fail; Therefore, It Will Fail


Back in December I wrote a piece where I stated that California was likely to default on its obligations. Let’s say the state’s leaders were less than pleased. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office asserted that I knew “nothing about California bonds, or the risk the State will default on its payments.” My assessment, they asserted, “is nothing more than irresponsible fear-mongering with no basis in reality, only roots in ignorance. Since it issued its first bond, California has never, not once, defaulted on a bond payment.”  read more »

How Tough Times May Lead to Better Architecture


By Richard Reep

While Ben Bernanke fantasizes about the Recovery, most people in the building industry – especially in overbuilt Florida – will correct this gross error immediately and emphatically. The recession may be over for the Fed Chairman, but unemployment in the design and construction professions is probably in the 25-30% range, matching that of the Great Depression.

Even so, tiny glimmers of light shine in what many design professionals call the “microeconomy” of building – small commercial renovations, house additions, tenant improvements, and other projects normally too small to even be counted.  read more »