Obama’s High-Speed Rail Obsession

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Perhaps nothing so illustrates President Obama’s occasional disconnect with reality than his fervent advocacy of high-speed rail. Amid mounting pressure for budget cuts that affect existing programs, including those for the inner city, the president has made his $53 billion proposal to create a national high-speed rail network as among his top priorities.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Seoul

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Based upon the preliminary results of the South Korea 2010 census, Seoul has become the world's third largest metropolitan area. The jurisdictions making out the metropolitan area, the provincial level municipality of Seoul (which is the national capital), the province of Gyeonggi and the provincial level municipality of Incheon now have a population of approximately 23.6 million people. This is third only to Tokyo – Yokohama, which has a population of approximately 40 million and Jabotabek (Jakarta), which is approaching 30 million.  read more »

Chicago Takes a Census Shellacking

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The Census results are out for Illinois, and it's bad news for the city of Chicago, whose population plunged by over 200,000 people to 2,695,598, its lowest population since before 1920.  This fell far short of what would have been predicted given the 2009 estimate of 2,851,268. It's a huge negative surprise of over 150,000, though perhaps one that should have been anticipated given the unexpectedly weak numbers for the state as a whole that were released in December.  read more »

Mortgage Meltdown: How Underwriting Went Under

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The White House remedies for the mortgage meltdown were presented on Friday. Congress will debate the life extension, death, or rebirth of federal mortgage entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the coming weeks.

When the noise has died down, don't expect substantial change. But those who hope for genuine financial reform should, nonetheless, listen carefully not only to what Washington says, but to whom it says it.  read more »

A Leg Up: World's Largest Cities No Longer Homes of Upward Mobility

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Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.  read more »

China Housing Market More Stable Than You May Think

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The sensationalist reporting of rising China tends to celebrate the country’s ascent. But there is one area where both economists and casual observers see a potential disaster: the real estate market.  Media reports of skyrocketing housing prices in first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai and photo essays of Chinese ‘ghost cities’ inject sober skepticism into the otherwise bewildering reality of rapid growth.  read more »

Regional Efficiency: The Swiss Model?

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Given that no one likes Switzerland’s banks, coo-coo clocks, high prices, smugness, dull cities, cheesy foods, or yodeling, I realize that it is too early to speak politically about “the Swiss Model.” But it needs to be pointed out that while the European Union evaporates and Homeland America goes for broke, the world’s second oldest democracy (1291) has trade and budget surpluses, a multi-lingual population, a green network of trains and buses to every village, excellent public schools, and a federal-style government that is closer to Thomas Jefferson’s America than the bureaucrati  read more »

Why Duany is Wrong About the Importance of Public Participation

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One of the news stories circling lately is an interview with Andres Duany where he asserts that public participation requirements are too onerous to enable great work to be done.   Early in my career I worked as a public historian and historic preservation specialist, so rather than launch immediately into my opinion, let me tell you a true story.  read more »

America's Biggest Brain Magnets

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For a decade now U.S. city planners have obsessively pursued college graduates, adopting policies to make their cities more like dense hot spots such as New York, to which the "brains" allegedly flock.

But in the past 10 years "hip and cool" places like New York have suffered high levels of domestic outmigration. Some boosters rationalize this by saying the U.S. is undergoing a "bipolar migration"--an argument recently laid out by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.  read more »

China's Empty Trains... & Other Unintended Consequences

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In a technical sense, the economy has been in recovery since June of 2009. A year and a half into the rebound though, a general cloud of economic malaise continues to cover the nation. Fears of a diminished America are perpetuated from our political and punditry classes. We are told that our collective lack of preparation, education, innovation, industry, and of infrastructure are all setting us up to fall further. Economic indicators may reflect a bounce-back, but structurally, America is waning. It is China that is increasingly emerging as the world’s bright spot in terms of development.  read more »