Urban Issues

Battle of the Upstarts: Houston vs. San Francisco Bay

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“Human happiness,” the Greek historian Herodotus once observed, “does not abide long in one place.” In its 240 years or so of existence, the United States has experienced similar ebbs and flows, with Boston replaced as the nation’s commercial capital first by Philadelphia and then by New York. The 19th century saw the rise of frontier settlements—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and finally Chicago—that also sought out the post position. In the mid 20th century, formerly obscure Los Angeles emerged as New York’s most potent rival.  read more »

Orlando Arts Scene: It's an Urban Bus Trip

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Artists are bus riders. With day jobs to keep food on the table, they often forego luxuries, using feet and bicycles, as well as buses, instead of cars. They travel alongside many people for whom the bus is an absolute necessity. Too often, the bus is a class marker in America, and a racial marker in the South. Many do not want to cross the threshold of the bus. With artists increasingly passing through this doorway, the Transit Interpretation Project began, first in Orlando, Florida and now in Roanoke, Virginia.  read more »

Seniors Dispersing Away from Urban Cores

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Senior citizens (age 65 and over) are dispersing throughout major metropolitan areas, and specifically away from the urban cores. This is the opposite of the trend suggested by some planners and media sources who claim than seniors are moving to the urban cores.  read more »

The Death of Nassau Coliseum: A Harbinger of Suburban Decline?

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Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is one of the last remaining old time hockey rinks. But this will be the last year that the New York Islanders play there. The old barn has long been slated for replacement. It is an old building that requires expensive repairs. Many attempts were made to reach an agreement for a new arena with Nassau County. Sadly, the team’s new location will be at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn; on Long Island physically, but not a part of the island’s suburban tradition.  read more »

Diverging Fortunes in Portland

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A recent New York Times Magazine had a story on Portland that featured Yours Truly. I recapitulated a few observations I’ve had over the years, including that it’s truly remarkable how a small city like Portland has captured so many people’s imagination, and also that “people move to Portland to move to Portland.”  read more »

New Commuting Data Shows Gain by Individual Modes

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The newly released American Community Survey data for 2013 indicates little change in commuting patterns since 2010, a result that is to be expected in a period as short as three years. Among the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), driving alone increased to 73.6% of commuting (including all travel modes and working at home). The one mode that experienced the largest drop was carpools, where the share of commuting dropped from 9.6% in 2010 to 9.0% in 2013. Doubtless most of the carpool losses represented gains in driving alone and transit.  read more »

The Sick Man Of Europe Is Europe

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The recent near breakup of the United Kingdom — something inconceivable just a decade ago — reflects a deep, pervasive problem of identity throughout the EU. The once vaunted European sense of common destiny is decomposing. Other separatist movements are on the march, most notably in Catalonia, Flanders and northern Italy.

Throughout the continent, public support for a united Europe fell sharply last year. Opposition to greater integration has emerged, with anti-EU parties gaining support in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Greece, Germany and France.  read more »

Millennials: A Powerful, Suburban Living Generation

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The latest survey data on the  living preferences of the Millennial generation (born 1982-2003) once again validates the picture of a cohort  that, contrary to urban legend, actually prefers the suburbs, even as they prepare to shape the suburbs in their own image. We and others have previously made this data-based point on this website. The results of the survey challenges the often wishful thinking of academics and ideologues who yearn for a more urbanized, denser America. 

The Demand Institute commissioned the Nielsen company, to survey 1000 Millennial households about where and how they plan to live over the next five years, The results suggest a major transformation of the country’s housing markets is about to take place that will benefit those who know and understand Millennials and respond to their desires.  read more »

Metro Area Gross Domestic Product

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis is out with the preliminary numbers for 2013 metro area GDP (see the press release). Here is a spreadsheet with per capita GDP data for all large metros.

We’ve now got enough data that it’s worthwhile to start tracking the trend vs. a 2010 base instead of 2000. With that, here are the top ten large metros by real per capita GDP:  read more »

Why Suburbia Irks Some Conservatives

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For generations, politicians of both parties – dating back at least to Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt – generally supported the notion of suburban growth and the expansion of homeownership. “A nation of homeowners,” Franklin Roosevelt believed, “of people who own a real share in their land, is unconquerable.”

Support for suburban growth, however, has ebbed dramatically, particularly among those self-styled progressives who claim FDR’s mantle. In California, greens, planners and their allies in the development community have supported legislation that tends to price single-family homes, the preference of some 70 percent of adults, well beyond the capacity of the vast majority of residents.  read more »