Urban Issues

When Detroit Stood Tall and Shaped the World


My recent post about how urban planning decisions helped lead to the Motown sound in Detroit was inspired by David Maraniss’ new book Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.

The book takes a deep dive into Detroit 1963, a city that was, although in some ways already in decline, in others near its zenith.

It’s a great read, in particularly for the depth of characterization. Too often Detroit writing is a story of heroes, villains, and victims. Maraniss rejects that approach and provides mostly nuanced portrayals of Detroiters that allows them to be the actual real, red-blooded human beings that they are.  read more »

Too Many Places Will Have too Few People


The adage “demographics are destiny” is increasingly being replaced by a notion that population trends should actually shape policy. As the power of projection grows, governments around the world find themselves looking to find ways to counteract elaborate and potentially threatening population models before they become reality.  read more »

How Land Use Regulations Hurt the Poor


Sandy Ikeda and I have published a new Mercatus paper on the regressive effects of land use regulation. We review the empirical literature on how the effects of rules such as maximum density, parking requirements, urban growth boundaries, and historic preservation affect housing prices. Nearly all of the studies on the price effects of land use regulations find that — as supply and demand analysis would predict — these rules increase the price of housing.  read more »

Public Transport’s Biggest Problem: The Public (That’s Us)


When’s the last time you heard some futurist or management guru suggest that in the future more of us will be working at the same desk doing routine tasks on a predictable working week schedule? No? That’s just one of many problems that advocates of limitless spending on public transport need to keep in mind in dealing with the issue of urban congestion.  read more »

A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability


This is the Executive Summary from a new report “A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy" authored by Wendell Cox and published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Ailin He, a PhD doctoral candidate in economics at McGill University served as research assistant.  read more »

Collingswood: The Main Street Model


There’s a weird war raging these days. There are people who advocate high rise living and public transit in the urban core to the exclusion of other arrangements. And then there are folks who can’t hold their head up high in church on Sunday if they don’t live on a quarter acre lot out on the far fringe of the metroplex with four cars parked in front of their fully detached home. I always choose the thing in the middle. It’s called a “town”. I’m a Main Street kind of guy.  read more »


How Chicago’s 606 Trail Fell Short of Expectations


When I was back in Chicago over Labor Day, I had to check out the “big three” new public space projects there: the Riverwalk, Maggie Daley Park, and the 606 Trail. The Riverwalk is a spectacular project I already wrote about. Maggie Daley Park, a new playground just across Columbus Dr. from Millennium Park’s Frank Gehry designed band shell, has been controversial and got mixed reviews. But I really liked it. More importantly, kids seem to love it.  read more »

So Much For The Death Of Sprawl: America's Exurbs Are Booming


It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs. With the aging of the millennial generation, and growing interest from minorities and immigrants, these communities are getting a fresh infusion of residents looking for child-friendly, affordable, lower-density living.  read more »

How Commuters Get Railroaded by Cities


With more than $10 billion already invested, and much more on the way, some now believe that Los Angeles and Southern California are on the way to becoming, in progressive blogger Matt Yglesias’ term, “the next great transit city.” But there’s also reality, something that rarely impinges on debates about public policy in these ideologically driven times.

Let’s start with the numbers. If L.A. is supposedly becoming a more transit-oriented city, as boosters already suggest, a higher portion of people should be taking buses and trains. Yet, Los Angeles County – with its dense urbanization and ideal weather for walking and taking transit – has seen its share of transit commuting decline, as has the region overall.  read more »

Auckland Tackles Housing Affordability Crisis


City of Auckland Chief Economist Chris Parker has called for establishment of a house price to income ratio objective of 5.0, to be achieved by 2030. The recommendation was included in a report commissioned by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy

The recommendation has been brought about in response to Auckland's severely unaffordable housing. Recent reports indicate a price to income ratio over 9.0, at least triple that of New Zealand to the early 1990s.  read more »