Urban Issues

Detroit Future City


Recently the Detroit Works Project released their long awaited strategic plan for the city. This is the one led by Toni Griffin that produced a lot of public controversy because of suggestions it would result in the planned shrinkage or decommissioning (or even forced residential relocations) in sparsely populated neighborhoods.  read more »

World's Most Affluent Metropolitan Areas: 2012


Late in 2012, the Brookings Institution published its annual Global Metro Monitor (by Emilia Istrate and Carey Anne Nadeau), which estimates economic data for the 300 world metropolitan areas with the largest gross domestic product (GDP). The Global Metro Monitor also provides estimates of the GDP per capita for each of the qualifying metropolitan areas.  read more »

Demographic and Economic Challenges: The 9th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey


The just released 9th Annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey (pdf) indicates that housing affordability has deteriorated modestly in the last year. A number of major metropolitan areas remain severely unaffordable.

Highlights: Metropolitan Areas

Among the 337 Metropolitan markets analyzed, Hong Kong remained the most unaffordable, with a median multiple (median house price divided by pre-tax median household income) of 13.5, up nearly a full point from last year's 12.6.  read more »

Will Driverless Cars Help us Drive Less?


The war on automobiles is real. Backed by a legion of city officials, environmentalists, and new urbanists, the argument to mitigate vehicle usage has so far been an easy sell – at least in planning circles. Their assumptions echo concerns about the trajectory American cities – the downfall of rural life and open space to name a few.  The problem is the trifecta of pollution, congestion, and urban sprawl. Out with cars, they propose – people could ride high-speed transit instead of sitting in traffic.  read more »

Rust Belt Cities: Invest in Odysseus, Not Barney Fife


Given its legacy of shrinking, the Rust Belt has issues. The issues arose naturally, and relate to the fact things leave, or that so much has left. Particularly, when things leave, the mind—both the individual and the collective city mind—can get protective and restrictive. Neediness arises. The smell of desperation ensues like a pall that can tend to hang over cities, influencing decision making on all levels.

Enter “brain drain”, or that term coined to refer to the outmigration of an area’s educated citizens, particularly it’s young.  read more »

How Polarization Plays Out in Washington state: Voting for President and the Same-sex Marriage


Washington may be a left coast “blue” state, but the geography of the voting well illustrates the national phenomena of intensifying polarization.  The division may be among individual people,   but also expressed in geographies down to precincts and census tracts. 

The Washington 2012 elections provided ample data to assess this political and geographic divide. I review here the two most polarized races, for president (Obama vs. Romney) and for R74, to reaffirm the right to same sex marriage.    read more »

California's Demographic Dilemma


It's been nearly 20 years since California Gov. Pete Wilson won re-election by tying his campaign to the anti-illegal immigrant measure Proposition 187. Ads featuring grainy images of presumably young Hispanic males crossing the border energized a largely white electorate terrified of being overwhelmed, financially and socially, by the incoming foreign hordes.

The demographic dilemma facing California today might be better illustrated by pictures of aging hippies with gray ponytails, of legions in wheel-chairs, seeking out the best rest home and unemployed young people on the street corner, watching while middle-age families drive away, seeking to fulfill mundane middle-class dreams in other states.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Kuala Lumpur


The Kuala Lumpur region of Malaysia is generally defined by the state of Selangor and two geographical enclaves (the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), carved from the state. These enclaves are the two seats of the federal government. Kuala Lumpur houses the national parliament and Putrajaya the executive and judicial branches.

Population Growth in the Kuala Lumpur Region

The Kuala Lumpur region had a population of approximately 7.1 million, according to the 2010 census. This includes 1.6 million in the federal territory (core city) of Kuala Lumpur and 5.5 million in the suburbs (which include Putrajaya).  read more »

The New Places Where America's Tech Future Is Taking Shape


Technology is reshaping our economic geography, but there’s disagreement as to how. Much of the media and pundits like Richard Florida assert that the tech revolution is bound to be centralized in the dense, often “hip” places where  “smart” people cluster.  read more »

The Dispersion of Financial Sector Jobs


When you think of financial services, one usually looks at iconic downtowns such as New York’s Wall Street, Montgomery Street San Francisco's or Chicago’s LaSalle Street. But since the great financial crisis of 2007-8 the banking business is on the move elsewhere. Over the last five years (2007 to 2012), even as the total number of financial jobs has declined modestly, they have been growing elsewhere.  read more »