Urban Issues

The U.S. Cities Getting Smarter The Fastest


It’s a commonplace among pundits and economic developers that smart people flock to “smart” places like sparrows to Capistrano. Reflecting the conventional wisdom, The New York Times recently opined that “college graduates gravitate to places with many other college graduates and the atmosphere that creates.”  read more »

Why I Don’t Live In Indianapolis


It’s no secret that Indianapolis has been a huge focus of my blog over the years. One of the biggest criticisms I get here, especially when I ding some other city, is that I’m nothing more than a mindless booster for Indy. While I like to think I’ve given the city a lot of tough love over the years, it’s definitely true that I’ve had many, many good things to say, and I have no problem saying that I’m a big fan of the city overall.

Why then, might one ask, don’t I actually live in Indianapolis?  read more »

Evolving Urban Form: Dhaka


A few weeks ago, we suggested that Hong Kong was the "smart growth" ideal, for having the highest urban population density in the high income world. But, if you expand the universe to the poorer, developing countries, Hong Kong barely holds a candle to Dhaka. Dhaka's 14.6 million people live in just 125 square miles (325 square kilometers). At more than 115,000 people per square mile (Figure 1), or 45,000 per square kilometer (Figure 2), the capital of Bangladesh is nearly 75 percent more dense than Hong Kong.  read more »

Swing State Geography: The I-4 Corridor


Overheated presidential politics have done few favors to Florida, except to put 132 miles of hot asphalt on everyone’s lips:  Interstate 4.  Completed in the late 1960s, this interstate (in fact, the only interstate highway to be entirely contained within one state) is known by millions who have  visited there at least once on vacation.  But the social and political reality in the world  around Interstate 4 is little known outside of Central Florida.  Like Ypres, the Flemish town continually under assault during World War 1, I-4 will receive the brunt of both side’  read more »

State of Chicago: Explaining the 1990s Versus the 2000s


In my article “The Second-Rate City?” I noted Chicago’s very strong economic and demographic performance in the 1990s and contrasted it with the very poor performance in the 2000s. Then I outlined several problems with Chicago I thought helped drive the struggles. A few people asked a very fair question, saying, “All the negative factors you cite about Chicago (e.g., clout, business climate) were equally as true in the 1990s as in the 2000s, so what really made the difference?” I want to try to respond to that today.  read more »

Let L.A. Be L.A.


Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments.  read more »

America's Future Is Taking Shape In The Suburbs


For nearly a generation, pundits, academics and journalists have written off suburbia. They predict that the future lies in the cities, with more Americans living in smaller spaces such as the micro-apartments of 300 square feet or less that New York and San Francisco are considering changing their building laws to allow.  read more »

Density is Not the Issue: The Urban Scaling Research


The "urban scaling" research of Geoffrey West, Luis Bettencourt, Jose Lobo, Deborah Strumsky, Dirk Helbing and Christian Kuhnert on cities has attracted considerable attention (references below). They have provided strong quantitative evidence, based upon voluminous econometric analysis that cities tend to become more efficient as they grow in population.  read more »

Predictable Punditry Down Under


The New South Wales Government has been following an extreme version of currently fashionable planning doctrines based on higher population densities. These policies have resulted in exorbitant housing costs and increasing traffic congestion.  A Liberal/National Coalition Government has come into power in New South Wales, replacing the previous Labor Government. In its election platform it promised to change planning policies for the better.  read more »

Public School Parent Trigger Laws: Something’s Gotta Give


In the mid-1950s, the McGuire Sisters’ version of Johnny Mercer’s song about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object made it to number five on the record charts. Their prediction, that “Something’s Gotta Give,” provides an apt description of the outcome of today’s battle between the parents of Millennials who want more say in their children’s education and the teacher unions and school district administrators who refuse to give up a smidgeon of control over the public schools they run.  read more »