Suburbia Evolved: Glendale Then and Now


The classic picture of suburbia is that of white picket fences, the family Chevy in the driveway, and Mom in an apron beckoning her children to abandon the baseball and glove for a home-cooked dinner. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this picture, per se. Nothing wrong except for the fact that it is now becoming more of the exception than the rule among American suburban communities, memorialized best in cultural artifacts like reruns of "Leave It to Beaver."  read more »

Toronto’s Civic Malaise


Despite Toronto’s international reputation for livability, all is not well in the city. Many politicians and pundits blame the outgoing city council, and Mayor David Miller. While they’ve done their share of damage, the city faces deeper, systemic problems. The source of the problem is more fundamental than stifling bureaucracy, or the stranglehold of the public sector unions. These are symptoms of the institutional sclerosis caused by the amalgamation of Toronto and surrounding areas into the new Toronto Megacity.  read more »


Iowa's Agro-Metro Future


When Brent Richardson, a field rep for Cadillac, was told he'd been transferred to Des Moines, he assumed he'd be spending the next year in a small town environment. Des Moines turned out to have much more bustle than he expected. The city had a robust insurance sector among its diverse industries. And the lifestyle was very similar to what he was able to live in big city suburbs like Naperville, Illinois or Bellingham, Massachusetts. Steeped in a decade of Farm Aid concerts, he also expected the surrounding rural areas to be populated with hardscrabble homesteaders struggling to hang on. Instead, he discovered that farming was big business – and, these days in particular, reasonably profitable. And some of those Iowa farmers turned out to be Cadillac buyers.  read more »

High Speed Rail: Fast Track To Nowhere

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner at Del Mar CA.jpg

Given that Warren Buffett ponied up $44 billion in cash and stock to take private the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, I wonder why President Obama is betting that the way to lift the country out of stagnant growth is to invest another $50 billion, in public funds, to swing aboard the dream of high-speed intercity rail.

According to the administration, new money needs to be allocated to such high-speed rail (HSR) projects as those between San Diego and Sacramento, Orlando and Tampa, and — my personal boondoggle favorite — the DesertXpress between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a $4 billion bet that getting high-rollers to the blackjack tables will lift the U.S. economy out of its doldrums.  read more »


Why Housing Will Come Back


Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than  homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.  read more »

Unmanageable Jakarta Soon To Lose National Capital?


Jakarta is the world's third largest urban area with 22 million people (Note 1) and the second largest metropolitan area with 26.6 million people (Note 2). Jakarta is the capital of the world's fourth most populous country, the Republic of Indonesia, which has 240 million people (following China, India and the United States). Jakarta is located on the island of Java, which covers slightly more land area than the state of New York and has 8 times the people (135 million).  read more »

Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility


Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, represented “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

What characterized great cities such as Amsterdam—and, later, places such as London, New York , Chicago, and Tokyo—was the size of their property-owning middle class. This was a class whose roots, for the most part, lay in the peasantry or artisan class, and later among industrial workers. Their ascension into the ranks of the bourgeoisie, petit or haute, epitomized the opportunities for social advancement created uniquely by cities.  read more »

Fortress Australia: Groundhog Day


A decade ago, politics in Australia lurched to embrace all things rural, happily demonizing urban interests. This happened in response to a renegade Politician – Pauline Hanson – who for a time captured public sympathy with populist anti-immigration sentiments, threatening to unseat entire governments in the process.  read more »

Time to Hate Those HOAs (again).


The foreclosure crisis has been devastating for millions of Americans, but it has also impacted many still working as before and holding on to their homes. Even a couple of empty dwellings on a street can very quickly deteriorate and become a negative presence in the neighborhood, at the least driving down prices further, sometimes attracting crime. Untended pools can allow pests to breed. Many animals have been abandoned and shelters report overflowing traffic.  read more »

The Livable Communities Act: A Report Card


With much fanfare, the Banking Committee of the United States Senate approved the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, introduced by Democratic Senator Dodd of Connecticut). A purpose of the act is expressed as: make the combined costs of housing and transportation more affordable to families.

The Livable Communities Act would provide financial incentives for metropolitan areas to adopt "livability" policies, which are otherwise known as "smart growth," "growth management" or "compact city" polices.  read more »