Urban Issues

The Urban Energy Efficiency Retrofit Challenge


I was welcomed home to Chicago from visiting family on Christmas Day by a cold house and a gas furnace that wasn't working. The next day a repair tech gave me the bad news about a blown circuit board that would cost over $500 to replace. But I heard that were was a $1500 tax credit for energy efficient upgrades that was expiring at year end. With $2000 in “free money” to spend, I thought maybe furnace replacement might be a better option. At eight years old, the furnace might have more years of life.  read more »

The Dispersing of Urbanism


For more than a century, people have been moving by the millions to larger urban areas from smaller urban areas and rural areas. Within the last five years, the share of the world population living in rural areas has dropped below one-half for the first time. The migration to the larger urban areas has spread to lower income nations as the countryside seemingly empties into places like Chongqing, Jakarta and Delhi.  read more »

Is China About to Decentralize?


More than a car, plane or train tick, the “Hukou” (the residential permit system) is the key to mobility in China.

I can still remember what my junior high English teacher said to my classmates and I, “I really worry about you guys; if you don’t study hard, not only will you not be able to get a job, you will probably have nowhere to stay, while the kids from the countryside; at least they will have some land to grow plants on and a house to live in!” (In my junior high school, all of my classmates had an urban hukou.)  read more »

Coalition of the Unwilling


This week the UK government announced an ”end to anti-car policies” reversing the guidance to local authorities to dissuade citizens from using their cars in favour of public transport. Charges for parking will be reined in, they promise.

It should be good news. The comically-named ”traffic calming” schemes put in place by the outgoing government were deeply unpopular. Still, we are getting used to taking our announcements from the new coalition government with a pinch of salt.  read more »

Yes, We Do Need to Build More Roads


Road are clearly out of fashion in urban planning circles. Conventional wisdom now decries roads in favor of public transit, walking or biking in developments designed to mimic traditional 19th century urbanism. Common refrains are “we can't build our way out of congestion” or “widening roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Also frequently noted is the vehicle miles traveled has – at least until recently – outpaced population growth.  read more »

Overselling Transit


A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times eloquently illustrated the limits of mass transit in modern societies. This is not to imply that that transit does not have its place, nor that it does not provide a most useful service where it can. The problem has been the overselling of a mode that has very serious limitations.  read more »

The NFL: Running the Numbers in the Football Business

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Why does America — and I include myself — invest so much psychic energy, not to mention hard dollars, in professional football, a sport that on many levels combines the worst aspects of roller derby and professional wrestling?  read more »

The Poverty Of Ambition: Why The West Is Losing To China And India - The New World Order


The last 10 years have been the worst for Western civilization since the 1930s. At the onset of the new millennium North America, Europe and Oceania stood at the cutting edge of the future, with new technologies and a lion’s share of the world’s GDP.  At its end, most of these economies limped, while economic power – and all the influence it can buy politically – had shifted to China, India and other developing countries.  read more »

Toronto: Three Cities in More than One Way


The issue of income disparity in Toronto has once again been brought into the public eye by a December 15th report by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski. The report, “The Three Cities Within Toronto,” points to a growing disparity in incomes between Downtown Toronto, the inner suburbs, and the outer suburbs of the city. The report demonstrates that between 1970 and 2005 the residents of the once prosperous outer suburbs have been losing ground compared to the now wealthy downtown core. The results for the inner suburbs have been mixed.  read more »

Washington Opens The Virtual Office Door

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On December 9, President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act, a bill designed to increase telework among federal employees. Sponsored by Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the legislation gives federal agencies six months to establish a telework policy, determine which employees are eligible to telework, and notify employees of their eligibility.  read more »