Urban Issues

Rust Belt Chic And The Keys To Reviving The Great Lakes

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Over four decades, the Great Lakes states have been the sad sack of American geography. This perception has been reinforced by Detroit’s bankruptcy filing and the descent of Chicago, the region’s poster child for gentrification, toward insolvency.  read more »

Cities Don’t Consume Resources, People Do

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Urban form or urban consumers? If we want to reduce the environmental impacts of modern society let’s prioritize consumption, not city form.  The evidence suggests that large cities (and especially city centres) are associated with a bigger environmental footprint than modest cities or suburbs. 

This post looks at incomes and consumption, especially the consumption of housing and transport services, asking how far can local regulation really influence environmental impacts?  read more »

Plan Bay Area: Telling People What to Do

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The San Francisco area’s recently adopted Plan Bay Area may set a new standard for urban planning excess. Plan Bay Area, which covers nearly all of the San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Vallejo and Napa metropolitan areas, was recently adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).  read more »

Root Causes of Detroit’s Decline Should Not Go Ignored

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Recently Detroit, under orders from a state-appointed emergency manager, became the largest U.S. city to go bankrupt. This stirred predictable media speculation about why the city, which at 1.8 million was once America’s 5th-largest, declined in the first place. Much of the coverage simply listed Detroit’s longtime problems rather than explaining their causes.  read more »

125 Years of Skyscrapers

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Skyscrapers have always intrigued me. Perhaps it began with selling almanacs to subscribers on my Oregon Journalpaper route in Corvallis. I have continued to purchase almanacs each year and until recently, the first thing I would do is look in the index for "Buildings, tall” in the old Pulitzer The World Almanac, the best source until the Internet.

My 1940 edition is the first in which “Buildings, tall” appears. The world of skyscrapers has changed radically through the years.  read more »

Children and Cities

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Central cities are not likely to regain their former population. However, some of them may have reached an important inflection point—population growth has returned to at least some of the largest (and longest-declining) cities. For example, New York City’s population has increased by more than one million since 1990, after declining by about one million between 1950 and 1980. Over the past decade, nine of the ten largest (and 17 of the 20 largest) cities in the United States have gained population.  read more »

Mobility for the Poor: Car-Sharing, Car Loans, and the Limits of Public Transit

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Public transit systems intend to enhance local economies by linking people to their occupations. This presents problems for many  low-income families  dependent on transit for commuting. With rising prices at the gas pump, much hope has been placed on an influx of investment into public transit to help low-income households. But does public transit really help the poor?  read more »

What Detroit Has Really Taught America

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Nothing. Seriously. Not a damn thing.

Oh, the occasion is being used to opine on our state of affairs, but nothing is structurally taking shape in America to prevent the next Detroit from occurring. In fact, Detroit is occurring every day inside most of us. We are all getting bankrupt in so many little ways.  read more »

Here’s a Way to Flood the US Housing Market with One Trillion Dollars

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Members of the millennial generation – born between 1982 and 2003 – carry a student debt burden of close to one trillion dollars. This is the group that includes many just entering the stage in life when people tend to settle down and start families. Even though Millennials are marrying later than previous generations, they would still be the prime market for sales of single family starter homes, if only they could afford them.  read more »

California Homes Require Real Reach

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In the 1950s and 1960s, Southern California was ground zero for the "American Dream" of owning a house. From tony Newport Beach and Bel-Air to the more middle-class suburbs of the San Fernando Valley and Garden Grove to working-class Lakewood, our region created a vast geography of opportunity for prospective homeowners.  read more »