Urban Issues

The Transit-Density Disconnect

sd3.jpg

Around the world planners are seeking to increase urban densities, at least in part because of the belief that this will materially reduce automobile use and encourage people to give up their cars and switch to transit, or walk or cycle (Note 1). Yet research indicates only a marginal connection between higher densities and reduced car use.  read more »

Did the Midwest Ever Have Strong Coastal Connections?

chicagoloop.jpg

Pete Saunders recently described how, after being built in part with eastern money, West Coast outposts like San Francisco and Los Angeles never relinquished their East Coast connections. This created bi-coastal connectivity that continues to play dividends for both coast at the expense of relatively disconnected “flyover country.”  read more »

America's Fastest-Growing Cities Since The Recession

bigstock-New-Orleans-Morning-969398.jpg

It was widely reported that the Great Recession and subsequent economic malaise changed the geography of America. Suburbs, particularly in the Sun Belt, were becoming the “new slums” as people flocked back to dense core cities.  read more »

As the North Rests on Its Laurels, the South Is Rising Fast

800px-Belle_of_Louisville_2.jpg

One hundred and fifty years after twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg destroyed the South’s quest for independence, the region is again on the rise. People and jobs are flowing there, and Northerners are perplexed by the resurgence of America’s home of the ignorant, the obese, the prejudiced and exploited, the religious and the undereducated.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: The Rhine-Ruhr (Essen-Düsseldorf)

651px-Wuppertaler_Schwebebahn_in_Elberfeld.jpg

Rhine-Ruhr, or Essen-Düsseldorf, is among the world's least recognized larger urban areas (Figure 1).  Germany does not designate urban areas according to the international standard, and for that reason the Rhine-Ruhr does not appear on the United Nations list of largest urban areas. Yet, in reality this contiguous urban area is Germany's largest urban area, a position as it has held since at least the end of World War II. The Rhine-Ruhr is the third largest urban area in Western Europe, trailing only Paris and London.  read more »

The Mad Drive to Subvert Democracy in Toronto

368px-Rob_Ford_Mayor.jpg

Let me stipulate that I think Toronto’s Rob Ford is a terrible mayor. In fact, while I might not go so far as Richard Florida, who labeled Ford “the worst mayor in the modern history of cities, an avatar for all that is small-bore and destructive of the urban fabric, and the most anti-urban mayor ever to preside over a big city,” I’m willing to say he’s probably in the running for the title.

The roots of Rob Ford lie in “amalgamation,” the forcible merging of the city of Toronto government with various of its suburbs by the Ontario provincial government. The idea was cost savings, but of course costs went up.  read more »

Housing Boom Is The Best Chance For A Recovery For The Rest Of Us

housingphoto.jpg

Our tepid economic recovery has been profoundly undemocratic in nature. Between the “too big to fail” banks and Ben Bernanke’s policy of dropping free money from helicopters on the investor class, there have been two recoveries, one for the rich, and another less rewarding one for the middle class.

Viewed in this light, the recent run-up in home prices, the biggest in seven years, offers some relief from this dreary picture. Home equity accounts for almost two-thirds of a “typical” family’s wealth (those in the middle fifth of U.S. wealth distribution); there is no other investment by which middle-class families can so easily grow their nest eggs.  read more »

Falling In Love With Where You Are

waldie-home-lead.jpg

Where I live is where most Californians live: in a tract house on a block of more tract houses in a neighborhood hardly distinguishable from the next, and all of these houses extending as far as the street grid allows.

My exact place on the grid is at the southeast corner of Los Angeles County, between the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. But my place could be almost anywhere in the suburbs of Los Angeles and Orange counties.  read more »

Suburbs and Sacred Space

bigstock-Tract-Homes-In-San-Clemente-Ca-4657336.jpg

Suburbs are often unfairly maligned as lacking the qualities that make cities great. But one place that criticism can be fair is in the area of sacred space. There most certainly is sacred space in the suburbs, but usually less of it than in the city both quantitatively and qualitatively.  In fact, the comparative lack of sacred space is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the suburb that makes it “sub” urban, that is, in a sense lesser than the city.

Lewis Mumford put it this way:  read more »

Retrofitting the Dream: Housing in the 21st Century, A New Report

retrofitting-the-dream-cover.jpg

This is the introduction to "Retrofitting the Dream: Housing in the 21st Century," a new report by Joel Kotkin. To read the entire report, download the .pdf attachment below.

In recent years a powerful current of academic, business, and political opinion has suggested the demise of the classic American dream of home ownership. The basis for this conclusion rests upon a series of demographic, economic and environmental assumptions that, it is widely suggested, make the single-family house and homeownership increasingly irrelevant for most Americans.  read more »