How Portland Is a Lot Like Texas


One theme I always hammer is that you have to look at proposed policy solutions in the context of the area where you want to apply them.

A great example of this is Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). The UGB, a policy that limits suburban development outside of a line drawn around the Portland region, is widely admired and perhaps even seen a type of holy grail policy in terms of preventing sprawl.  read more »

The Detached iHome of the Future


Will new American housing growth continue to reflect old methods, or will the land development, home building, and consulting industry retool, re-educate, and collaborate to create a new era of more attractive, livable, efficient, and environmentally responsible growth at attainable prices?  read more »

Tech Titans Want to be Masters of All Media We Survey

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The rising tech oligarchy, having disrupted everything from hotels and taxis to banking, music and travel, is also taking over the content side of the media business. In the process, we might see the future decline of traditional media, including both news and entertainment, and a huge shift in media power away from both Hollywood and New York and toward the Bay Area and Seattle.  read more »


2014 Journey to Work Data: More of the Same


The major metropolitan area journey to work data is out, reported in the American Community Survey ‘s 2014 one year edition. The news is that there is not much news. Little has changed since 2010 despite all the talk about “peak car” and a supposed massive shift towards transit. Single occupant driving remains by far the largest mode of transport to work in the 53 major metropolitan areas (with over 1,000,000 population), having moved from 73.5 percent of commutes to 73.6 percent.  read more »

Cherry Hill: The Winners


This is Cherry Hill. It is by far the most desirable suburb in this part of southern New Jersey as measured by all the usual metrics. Property values are high. Public schools are great. The municipal government is lean and responsive. This is as good as the American Dream gets.  read more »

The Cities Where Your Salary Will Stretch The Furthest 2015

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Average pay varies widely among U.S. cities, but those chasing work opportunities would do well to keep an eye on costs as well. Salaries may be higher on the East and West coasts, but for the most part, equally high prices there mean that the fatter paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead.  read more »

When Detroit Stood Tall and Shaped the World


My recent post about how urban planning decisions helped lead to the Motown sound in Detroit was inspired by David Maraniss’ new book Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.

The book takes a deep dive into Detroit 1963, a city that was, although in some ways already in decline, in others near its zenith.

It’s a great read, in particularly for the depth of characterization. Too often Detroit writing is a story of heroes, villains, and victims. Maraniss rejects that approach and provides mostly nuanced portrayals of Detroiters that allows them to be the actual real, red-blooded human beings that they are.  read more »

China’s Demographics at a Turning Point


For decades, the decline in China’s birth rate was a big boost for the economy. What now?

This week, schadenfreude could have been a word invented for China experts if you judge by some of the commentary surrounding the country’s lifting of its one-child policy. Most got it right that the legacy of the one-child policy is now a problem for the Chinese economy because of a rapidly rising old-age dependency ratio (green line in the first chart below). This was tacitly acknowledged by the lifting of the policy.  read more »


Too Many Places Will Have too Few People


The adage “demographics are destiny” is increasingly being replaced by a notion that population trends should actually shape policy. As the power of projection grows, governments around the world find themselves looking to find ways to counteract elaborate and potentially threatening population models before they become reality.  read more »

Berlin: The Imperial Impulse in City Planning

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"He who controls Berlin, controls Germany, and who controls Germany, controls Europe." V.I. Lenin (but also attributed to Karl Marx, and sometimes to Otto von Bismarck)

About the time that Syrian refugees were on the march to Germany’s safe havens, I spent a few days in Berlin, which is not only the capital of reunified Germany, but the unofficial capital of the European Union, as well as being hipster ground zero.  read more »