Urban Issues

How to Make Cities Livable Again

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In his new book, The Human City, Joel Kotkin looks at the ways cities succeed or fail in terms of how their residents are best served. Here’s a tour of some past models.

Throughout history, urban areas have taken on many functions, which have often changed over time. Today, this trend continues as technology, globalization, and information technology both undermine and transform the nature of urban life. Developing a new urban paradigm requires, first and foremost, integrating the traditional roles of cities—religious, political, economic—with the new realities and possibilities of the age. Most importantly, we need to see how we can preserve the best, and most critical, aspects of urbanism. Cities should not be made to serve some ideological or aesthetic principle, but they should make life better for the vast majority of citizens.  read more »

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Politics Move Left, Americans Move Right

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In an election year in which the top likely candidates come from New York, big cities arguably dominate American politics more than at any time since New Deal. The dynamics of urban politics, which are characterized by high levels of inequality and racial tensions—may be pushing Democrats ever further to the left and Republicans toward the inchoate resentment of Donald Trump. 

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Black Residents Matter

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Black lives matter, we’re told—but in many American cities, black residents are either scarce or dwindling in number, chased away by misguided progressive policies that hinder working- and middle-class people. Such policies more severely affect blacks than whites because blacks start from further behind economically. Black median household income is only $35,481 per year, compared with $57,355 for whites.  read more »

Focus on Cost-Effective GHG Emissions: Report

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The Reason Foundation has published my new research reviewing the potential for urban containment (or other restrictive policies that are sometimes called "smart growth") to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Principal reports cited by advocates of urban containment are reviewed. The conclusion is that only minimal reductions if the gains from improved automobile fuel economy are excluded.  read more »

Public Transportation Ridership: Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back?

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The Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently released preliminary data summarizing public transportation ridership in the United States for the calendar year 2015. The preliminary data from the National Transit Data program showed transit ridership in 2015 of 10.4 billion annual riders approximately 2.5% below the 2014 count and also smaller than the 2013 count.  read more »

DIY Urbanism

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Over the years I’ve belonged to a variety of different organizations that had the ostensible goal of accomplishing X or Y. At a certain point I would realize that all anyone was doing was exercising their fears and frustrations. Most of all they were trying to stop other people from doing things they didn’t like.  read more »

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America's Subway: America's Embarrassment?

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Washington's Metro (subway), often called "America's subway," may well be America's embarrassment. As a feature article by Robert McCartney and Paul Duggan in the Washington Post put it: “'America’s subway,' which opened in 1976 to great acclaim — promoted as a marvel of modern transit technology and design — has been reduced to an embarrassment, scorned and ridiculed from station platforms to the halls of Congress. Balky and unreliable on its best days, and hazardous, even deadly, on its worst, Metrorail is in crisis, losing riders and revenue and exhausting public confidence." (emphasis by author.)  read more »

There Are No Writers Here

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I’ve long noted that the civic identity or culture of many places seems to be a cipher. What is our identity as a city? is a question frequently asked. And one that needs to be. Cities will succeed best when they undertake policies that are true to the place. To most successfully build or rebuild a place, it’s important to articulate that civic identity and work with it, not against it.  read more »

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Where Millionaires Are Moving

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In this oligarchic era, dominated as never before in modern history by the ultra-rich, their movements are far more than grist for gossip columns. They are critical to the health of city economies around the world.  read more »

Millennial Home Ownership: Disappointment Ahead in Some Places?

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Millennial renters overwhelmingly plan on buying their own homes, though affording them could be far more challenging than they think. This is an important conclusion from a renters’ survey by apartmentlist.com, an apartment search website (See: The Affordability Crisis: Are Millennials Destined to be Renters?).  read more »