Urban Issues

How Urban Planning Made Motown Records Possible

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I’m reading Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss, a book I plan to review for City Journal. But I want to highlight something briefly that really caught my eye about Motown Records. It’s no secret Detroit punches above its weight in musical influence, and the Motown sound was clearly a big part of that. Maraniss asks “Why Detroit? What gave this city its unmatched creative melody?” He lays out his theory of the case with regards to Motown Records.  read more »

Planning has Become the Externality: New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister

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One of the frequently cited justifications for urban planning is to mitigate negative externalities --- detrimental impacts that people or organizations impose on others in society. While acknowledging this, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Bill English charged that urban planning itself has become the externality, by virtue of its impact on house prices, equality and the economy in New Zealand.  read more »

Environmental Activists Turn up the Rhetorical Heat

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What is the endgame of the contemporary green movement? It’s a critical question since environmentalism arguably has become the leading ideological influence in both California government and within the Obama administration. In their public pronouncements, environmental activists have been adept at portraying the green movement as reasonable, science-based and even welcoming of economic growth, often citing the much-exaggerated promise of green jobs.  read more »

Rural Industrialization: Asia’s 21st Century Growth Frontier

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A World Bank report released earlier this year featured a jarring statistic: 200 million people moved to East Asia’s cities between 2000 and 2010. That figure is greater than the populations of all but five of the world’s countries.  read more »

Jessie: Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati

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This is Jessie. She’s a well educated thirty year old professional with a good income. She could live anywhere she wants. She was offered excellent positions with good companies in San Francisco. While she was excited by the opportunity to live in a top tier coastal city she was smart enough to actually run the numbers before taking a job.  read more »

No Wiggle Room in Housing Market

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The salary gap – where top-end incomes are rising faster than middle- and lower-end salaries – plays a large role in the affordability of middle-class housing along with interest rates and prices. Which factor has more influence depends on where you live and how you make your living.  read more »

Light Rail in the Sun Belt is a Poor Fit

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There is an effective lobby for building light rail, including in cities such as Houston. But why build light rail? To reduce car use? To improve mobility for low-income citizens? This certainly seems a worthwhile objective, with the thousands of core-city, low-income residents whose transit service cannot get them to most jobs in a reasonable period of time.

ut rather than accept the flackery that accompanies these projects, maybe we should focus on effectiveness, judged by ridership, and the impact of such expensive projects on the transportation of the transit-dependent.  read more »

Should Older Americans Live in Places Segregated from the Young?

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Demographers frequently remind us that the United States is a rapidly aging country. From 2010 to 2040, we expect that the age-65-and-over population will more than double in size, from about 40 to 82 million. More than one in five residents will be in their later years. Reflecting our higher life expectancy, over 55% of this older group will be at least in their mid-70s.  read more »

Who Should Pay for the Transportation Infrastructure?

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Urban regions are significantly more important than any one city located within them. Housing, transportation, economy, and politics help produce uneven local geographies that shape the individual identities of places and create the social landscapes we inherit and experience. As such, decisions made within one city can ripple through the entire urban region. When affordable housing is systematically ignored by one city, neighboring cities become destinations for those who cannot afford higher housing costs.  read more »

The Cities Americans Are Thronging To And Fleeing

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Cities get ranked in numerous ways — by income, hipness, tech-savviness and livability — but there may be nothing more revealing about the shifting fortunes of our largest metropolitan areas than patterns of domestic migration.

Bright lights and culture may attract some, but people generally move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living, particularly affordable housing.  read more »