The Uncertain Future of the California Bullet Train

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On July 18, at a site pregnant with symbolism — the future location of what HSR advocates hope will become San Francisco’s terminus of the state’s bullet train — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to fund construction of the first section of the high-speed line. Earlier in the day, Brown had traveled for a similar ceremony to Los Angeles, the other "bookend" of the project.  read more »

How Marketing Could Boost Land Development

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Zoning ordinances, land use maps and comprehensive plans used by cities to guide growth rarely provide the kind of insight required to make informed decisions about what will truly be best for the city and its residents in the long run. Unfortunately, by failing to incorporate market analysis and financial modeling in the beginning stages of the planning process, too many cities find themselves facing the results of misallocated resources and fiscal difficulties that could have been easily prevented.  read more »

Subjects:

State of Chicago: Explaining the 1990s Versus the 2000s

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In my article “The Second-Rate City?” I noted Chicago’s very strong economic and demographic performance in the 1990s and contrasted it with the very poor performance in the 2000s. Then I outlined several problems with Chicago I thought helped drive the struggles. A few people asked a very fair question, saying, “All the negative factors you cite about Chicago (e.g., clout, business climate) were equally as true in the 1990s as in the 2000s, so what really made the difference?” I want to try to respond to that today.  read more »

Let L.A. Be L.A.

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Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments.  read more »

America's Future Is Taking Shape In The Suburbs

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For nearly a generation, pundits, academics and journalists have written off suburbia. They predict that the future lies in the cities, with more Americans living in smaller spaces such as the micro-apartments of 300 square feet or less that New York and San Francisco are considering changing their building laws to allow.  read more »

Libor: Is The City of London Fixed?

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Having worked inside banking, do I think that banks colluded to post an artificial London interbank offered rate, otherwise known as Libor? For those not in the brotherhood, that acronym is a compendium of average borrowing prices from sixteen large banks, pronounced either as lee-boar or lie-bore. Before turning to conspiracy theories, let’s review the facts of a scandal that began more than four years ago, and are so murky that I, for one — despite twenty-five years in international banking — have a hard time grasping.  read more »

Density is Not the Issue: The Urban Scaling Research

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The "urban scaling" research of Geoffrey West, Luis Bettencourt, Jose Lobo, Deborah Strumsky, Dirk Helbing and Christian Kuhnert on cities has attracted considerable attention (references below). They have provided strong quantitative evidence, based upon voluminous econometric analysis that cities tend to become more efficient as they grow in population.  read more »

Predictable Punditry Down Under

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The New South Wales Government has been following an extreme version of currently fashionable planning doctrines based on higher population densities. These policies have resulted in exorbitant housing costs and increasing traffic congestion.  A Liberal/National Coalition Government has come into power in New South Wales, replacing the previous Labor Government. In its election platform it promised to change planning policies for the better.  read more »

Public School Parent Trigger Laws: Something’s Gotta Give

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In the mid-1950s, the McGuire Sisters’ version of Johnny Mercer’s song about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object made it to number five on the record charts. Their prediction, that “Something’s Gotta Give,” provides an apt description of the outcome of today’s battle between the parents of Millennials who want more say in their children’s education and the teacher unions and school district administrators who refuse to give up a smidgeon of control over the public schools they run.  read more »

The Rise of The 1099 Economy: More Americans Are Becoming Their Own Bosses

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While the economy has been miserable for small business, and many larger ones as well, the ranks of the self-employed have been growing. According to research by Economic Modeling Specialists International, the number of people who primarily work on their own has swelled by 1.3 million since 2001 to 10.6 million, a 14% increase.  read more »