Urban Issues

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 »

Beyond Neo-Victorianism: A Call for Design Diversity

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By Richard Reep

Investment in commercial development may be in long hibernation, but eventually the pause will create a pent-up demand. When investment returns, intelligent growth must be informed by practical, organic, time-tested models that work. Here’s one candidate for examination proposed as an alternative to the current model being toyed with by planners and developers nationwide.  read more »

Counting Counties

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I was about seven years old when I got my first copy of the Rand McNally Road Atlas (RMRA), and I’ve rarely been more than 50 feet away from one ever since. Unless I was out of the country, there has probably never been a day when I haven’t looked at it at least once.  read more »

China’s Heartland Capital: Chengdu, Sichuan

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On May 12, 2008, Chinese architect Stepp Lin was focusing intensely on his professional licensing exam in a testing center in central Chengdu when suddenly he felt someone bumping his desk. By the time he looked up to see what it was, most of the other exam takers were frantically fleeing for the exit. It turns out that what he was feeling were the tremors of what was to be the most devastating earthquake to hit China in recent memory.  read more »

Reducing Traffic Congestion and Improving Travel Options in Los Angeles

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While traffic congestion plagues many cities, Los Angeles stands apart. The Texas Transportation Institute tracks congestion statistics for U.S. metropolitan areas on an annual basis, and Los Angeles routinely ranks first for both total and per-capita congestion delays. Considering the value of wasted time and fuel, TTI estimates the annual cost of traffic congestion in greater Los Angeles at close to $10 billion.  read more »

Housing: Density & Desire

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Density — the number of units per acre on a proposed site plan — is at the heart of the developer’s mantra: More density, more profit. Meanwhile, environmentalists and many planners preach high density as the promise for a better future. The compression of families is an attempt to curb sprawl and reduce transportation energy consumption. For these reasons, many Green programs demand a minimum density to qualify for certification.  read more »

Will Anyone Stand Up for American Industry?

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“Esau for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” - Hebrews 12:16-17

Built from 1933-1936, the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to Oakland was an engineering marvel of its day. A complex series of multiple spans, when it opened – six months ahead of the more famous Golden Gate Bridge – it was both the longest suspended bridge deck in the world and the longest cantilever bridge in the world. The western suspension bridge section, technically two bridges in one, had to settle for being only the second and third longest suspension bridges in the world.  read more »