Urban Issues

Atlanta: Ground Zero for the American Dream

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The Atlanta area has much to be proud of, though it might not be obvious from the attitudes exhibited by many of its most prominent citizens. For years, local planners and business leaders have regularly trekked to planning’s Holy City (Portland) in hopes of replicating its principles in Atlanta. They would be better saving their air fares.  read more »

Who's Dependent on Cars? Try Mass Transit

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The Smart Growth movement has long demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of rhetoric. Terms like livability, transportation choice, and even “smart growth” enable advocates to argue by assertion rather than by evidence. Smart Growth rhetoric thrives in a political culture that rewards the clever catchphrase over drab data analysis, but often fails to identify the risks for cities inherent in their war against “auto-dependency” and promotion of large-scale mass transit to boost the “sustainability” of communities.  read more »

Reforming Anti-Urban Bias in Transportation Spending

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State governments have to stop treating transportation like yet another welfare program.

Among urban and rural areas, who subsidizes whom?

It's methodologically difficult to measure net taxation, but the studies that have been done suggest that, contrary to the belief of some, urban areas are big time net tax donors. For example, a recent Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute study found that Indiana's urban and suburban counties generally subsidize rural ones.  read more »

Housing Unaffordability as Public Policy: The New Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

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The just released 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey shows some improvement in housing affordability, especially in the United States and Ireland but a continuing loss of housing affordability, especially in Australia.  read more »

Phoenix, Put Aside Dreams of Gotham

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Now that Phoenix's ascendancy has been at least momentarily suspended, its residents are no doubt wondering what comes next. One tendency is to say the city needs to grow up and become more like East Coast cities or Portland, Ore., with dense urban cores and well-developed rail transit. The other ready option is always inertia - a tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were.

Neither approach will work in the long run.  read more »

The War Against Suburbia

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A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.  read more »

High-Speed Rail: Toward Least Worst Projections

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It comes as welcome news that the United States Department of Transportation Inspector General is concerned about the integrity of high-speed rail projections, “including ridership, costs, revenues and associated public benefits.” The issue has become ripe as a result of the $8 billion for high speed rail that the Obama Administration slipped into the economic stimulus bill early in 2009.  read more »

Las Vegas: The Boom - Bust Bender

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It's delightfully easy to blast Las Vegas… or simply to make fun of it. It is the world capital of shamelessness, so it is more or less beside the point to criticize. Yet with the debut of the colossal $8.5 billion CityCenter, Vegas makes pretension to "sustainable urbanism." Even by Vegas standards of hype, this is mendacity at a colossal scale.  read more »

High Tech Won't Save California's Economy

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Much has been made of California's struggles, but some still say California's best days are ahead of it. In this calculus, innovation in high tech, biotech, green tech, clean tech, any tech will ultimately pull the state out of its current funk and to even greater success tomorrow. Promoters of this view cite an impressive roster of statistics around venture capital, patents, new business formation, etc., along with obligatory anecdotes of ambitious new startups with world changing products (coming soon) and their slick, dynamic founders.  read more »

Move the United Nations to Dubai

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The opening last week of the world's tallest building, the half-mile-high Burj Dubai, has largely been greeted with guffaws and groans. The Daily Telegraph labeled it "the new pinnacle of vanity"--"a purposeless monument to the subprime era." The Wall Street Journal compared it to the Tower of Babel. (When the Empire State Building was completed in 1931, in the throes of the greatest financial crisis of the 20th century, it was met with similar jeers. The then-tallest building in the world was called the Empty State Building, and it remained vacant for several years.)

Yet the Burj's completion--indeed the whole wild enterprise known as Dubai--could signal a potential opportunity to the global community: turning the place into the headquarters for that other misguided ship, the United Nations.  read more »