Urban Issues

A Price on Carbon: the New Greenmail


Hidden from view during the Australian election, a carbon price is back on the political agenda. This comes as no surprise. Anyone following the debate, however, will see that it has nothing to do with the environment. For some time we have been urged to “act now”, but the grounds keep shifting and changing. Early on it was the drought. Then the Great Barrier Reef. After that the Bali Conference. Then the election of Barack Obama. Next came the Copenhagen Conference. Then being “left behind” in clean technology. Now, apparently, “inaction will cost more in the end”.  read more »

Living In Denial About Transportation Funding


The reaction of various advocacy groups to President Obama’s recent call for a $50 billion stimulus spending plan for transportation infrastructure was predictable. They applauded the President’s initiative and thought that Congress should promptly approve the spending request. The benefits of investing in infrastructure are undisputable and the need for funds is urgent and compelling, they (or their press releases) proclaimed.  read more »

Who’s Racist Now? Europe’s Increasing Intolerance


With the rising tide of terrorist threats across Europe, one can somewhat understandably expect a   surge in Islamophobia across the West. Yet in a contest to see which can be more racist, one would be safer to bet on Europe than on the traditional bogeyman, the United States.

One clear indicator of how flummoxed Europeans have become about diversity were the remarks last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that multi-culturalism has “totally failed” in her country, the richest and theoretically  most capable of absorbing immigrants. “We feel tied to Christian values,” the Chancellor said. “Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.”  read more »

Chicago’s Eroding Competitive Performance (Chicago vs. New York)


A lot of my thinking on Chicago has been shaped by an overarching view of its performance. Believe it or not, I used to be a huge Chicago cheerleader. I don’t think there’s any doubt that during the 1990’s, Chicago rediscovered its mojo and was really tearing up the charts of performance for big cities. But something changed in the mid-2000’s. I date it to the opening of Millennium Park. Millennium Park was a huge home run for the city, and obviously a key positive part of Mayor Daley’s legacy, no matter what the cost over runs.  read more »


The Future of a Hub: Can Singapore Stay On Top of the Game?


Viewed from a broad, historical perspective, Singapore’s position as a hub is far from inevitable or unassailable. History shows that hubs come and go. Malacca used to be the centre of the spice trade in Southeast Asia. Venice was the centre of East-West trade throughout the Middle Ages. Rangoon, now Yangon, was the aviation hub of Southeast Asia before 1962.  read more »

London Special Report: Britain Drifts South – and Why Not?


The British Broadcasting Corporation wants 1500 of its staff to move to its new ”MediaCity” headquarters in Salford, near Manchester in northwest England. The Corporation, they say with some justification, is too southern, too much part of the metropolitan elite. The move ”addresses concerns that the organisation is not fully representative of the peoples of the UK.”

On the surface it looks like a good deal. On top of a £5000 payment, they have been offered £350 for each house-hunting journey as well as removal costs, a guaranteed house purchase scheme and and even £3,000 for new carpets and curtains. Other benefits include help securing jobs for spouses or partners jobs in the area and specialist help with children's schooling.  read more »

London Special Report: The Making of the Hundred Mile City


(Part I of II.) The writer Ford Madox Ford summarised the inventiveness of the early twentieth century in an essay The Future of London (1909) by lambasting what he called the “tyranny of the past.” “The future,” he argued on the other hand, wages a ceaseless war against the monuments of the past’.

This debate is alive today in the battle between the emerging metropolitan reality and the nostalgia of the urban past. Ford’s dream was of a Great London ‘… not of seven, but of seventy-million imperially minded people’.  read more »

North America's Fastest-Growing Cities


The U.S. and Canada's emerging cities are not experiencing the kind of super-charged growth one sees in urban areas of the developing world, notably China and India. But unlike Europe, this huge land mass' population is slated to expand by well over 100 million people by 2050, driven in large part by continued immigration.

In the course of the next 40 years, the biggest gainers won't be behemoths like New York, Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles, but less populous, easier-to-manage cities that are both affordable and economically vibrant.  read more »

The Hudson Tunnel: Issues for New Jersey


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sent shockwaves through the transportation industry on last Thursday when he cancelled the under-construction ARC (Access to the Regional Core) rail tunnel under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York (Manhattan).  read more »

Aussie Urban Myths


Urban planning in Australia is lost in a dense fog of presumption and theory. What’s needed is to toss out the hype and to illuminate some of the common planning myths for what they really are: impediments to progress.

An example of planning hype occurred not long ago when ten urban academics loudly criticised the Victorian government’s decision to develop about 40,000 hectares of new land on Melbourne's fringe, calling the decision short-sighted and unsustainable.  read more »