Urban Issues

Light Rail in the Sun Belt is a Poor Fit


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?


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?


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


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 »

The Green Urbanization Myth


Once a fringe idea, the notion of using technology to allow humanity to “decouple” from nature is winning new attention, as a central element of what the Breakthrough Institute calls “ecomodernism.” The origins of the decoupling idea can be found in 20th century science fiction visions of domed or underground, climate-controlled, recycling-based cities separated by forests or deserts.  read more »

Is This Hell or Indianapolis?


I’ve observed many times that cities outside of the very top tier almost always come across as generic, cheesy, and trying too hard in their marketing efforts. They highlight everything about their city that is pretty much a variant on things everybody else already has (beer, beards, bicycles, etc) while downplaying the things that truly reflect their community. Call it “aspirational genericism.”  read more »

New Report: Putting People First


This is the abstract from a new report “Putting People First: An Alternative Perspective with an Evaluation of the NCE Cities ‘Trillion Dollar’ Report,” authored by Wendell Cox and published by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Download the full report (pdf) here.

A fundamental function of domestic policy is to facilitate better standards of living and minimize poverty. Yet favored urban planning policies, called "urban containment" or "smart growth," have been shown to drive the price of housing up, significantly reducing discretionary incomes, which necessarily reduces the standard of living and increases poverty.  read more »

China’s Planned City Bubble Is About to Pop—and Even You’ll Feel It


Seven years after the last housing debacle devastated the world economy, we may be on the verge of another, albeit different, bubble. If the last real estate collapse was created due to insanely easy lending policies aimed at the middle and working classes, the current one has its roots largely in a regime of cheap money married to policies of planners who believe that they can shape the urban future from above.  read more »


Recent Growth and Decline of Children in Major Metropolitan Areas


That America has an aging population is well known. Estimates data released this summer by the Census Bureau illustrate this transition in progress – and paint a picture of an actual shrinking number of children in many major American metro areas.  read more »

Low Hanging Fruit


As a San Franciscan I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I mention that I recently bought property in Cincinnati. “Huh?” Then I walk them through it. Here’s the mom and pop business district along Hamilton Avenue in the Northside neighborhood during a recent Summer Streets event. This is a classic 1890’s Norman Rockwell Main Street with a hardware store, a Carnegie library, barbers, cafes, bars, funky little shops, and seriously good architectural bones.  read more »