Make Sure All That Infrastructure Spending Is Well Supported

bldg.research2_3.jpg

It's the new buzzword: infrastructure.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised billions in infrastructure spending as part of a public works program bigger than any since the interstate highway system was built in the 1950s. Though it was greeted with hosannas, his proposal is only tapping into a clamor for such spending that's been rising ever since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last year. With the economy now officially in recession, the rage for new brick and mortar is reaching a fever pitch.

But before we commit hundreds of billions to new construction projects, we should focus on just what kind of infrastructure investment we should – and shouldn't – be making.  read more »

How About a Rural Stimulus?

ruralpenn.jpg

In Pennsylvania, public and private funds mainly are directed into areas where people live and where people vote. As a result urban Pennsylvania has significant advantages over rural communities in securing public funds and private investment.  read more »

Farmer’s Markets: Reviving Public Space in Central Florida

Transaction.jpg

By Richard Reep

Noted architect Daniel Liebeskind, teaching at Yale in the early 1990s, proclaimed “Public space is dead”. A provocative notion at the time, he was simply observing American cultural phenomena, and our evolution away from Main Street into the mall, away from the downtown church to the suburban megachurch, and away from common space into private space. While all this is true, it misses a countercyclical element in our cities, and in the Orlando area, public space is very much alive and assuming a new role in the neighborhoods.  read more »

China Should Send Western Planners Home

wendellchina1.jpg

For centuries, the West sent missionaries around the world to spread various gospels. It is no different now, though the clerics tend to hold degrees from planning schools rather than those overtly specializing in theology.

This could also create tragic results as ideologies created in one context are imported into a totally foreign one.  read more »

City Planning and The Politics of Pollution

iStock_000006300674XSmallurban playground.jpg

Part Two. Yesterday, in Part One, Critser discussed scientific advances in understanding air pollution. Today, he addresses the social implications.

The new science of air pollution, with its emphasis on dose-response mechanisms, may remake the traditional advocacy realm of social and environmental justice. In the past, that world has been focused on class, race and ethnicity, classic markers of inequality and vulnerability. Today, the focus is more “exposure driven.” “Dosage… may be something people who have ignored environmental justice can get their heads around,” one researcher at last month’s Environmental Epidemiology conference in Pasadena noted. “It may get people’s attention on something that affects us all.”  read more »

Voting and Families: America’s Second Demographic Transition

iStock_000006122887XSmall-election08.jpg

It has been widely accepted that geographic areas with more unconventional forms of family formation – cohabitation; children born to cohabitors; postponement of partnership, marriage and parenthood to much later ages; acceptance of interference with fertility through abortion and efficient contraception – would vote for Democrats. Conversely, those geographic areas that retain classic forms of family formation – early marriage and parenthood – and more conventional gender roles would display a preference for Republicans.  read more »

Will The New Air Pollution Science Choke City Planners?

iStock_000006224246XSmallhiway101.jpg

Part One of A Two-Part Series

Not long ago, Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and current member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, took up a case pending approval by that body: a mixed housing-retail development near the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Like many of the remaining buildable sites in the city, the property is right next to a roaring motorway; the windows of some apartments would look right out onto the 134 Freeway. To Angelinos, who have grown up in a car culture, it was hardly a remarkable proposal. But Woo, perhaps one of the brainier members of the city’s political elite—after losing a mayoral race to Richard Riordan in the early 1990s he became a professor of public policy at University of Southern California—had a problem with it, and he couldn’t quite let it go.  read more »

Rethinking Risk During a Financial Crisis: Learning from Mexico

kirbymexico.jpg

Last month I visited a small town in southern Mexico. It is a quiet and modestly prosperous place. Outside some of the homes are older Suburbans, Jeeps and Explorers; the license plates show that their owners have recently returned from the US, driven out by the collapsing economy and heightened nativist anxieties. Almost every family, it seems, has some member who has spent time up north; only a very few of them are still hanging on through the recession.  read more »

Former Insider on the Auto Bailout: Never Underestimate Brainpower in Detroit

iStock_000004417690XSmall.jpg

In all the many (how many) years I worked as an engineer in and around the auto industry, I got to compare conditions in Europe, Japan and America. Yet in many ways the American situation was perhaps the most tragic – the most potential, most eagerly squandered. It’s not Americans who are flawed, but the business model imposed from the top.

For example, I do not believe American engineers are inferior to those working elsewhere. It’s just the way their inputs are handled. Toyota and Honda have long-term viable plans that forecast many years down the road. This gives engineers a clear direction.  read more »

Euroburbia: A Personal View

germansuburb.jpg

The image of the European city as a tourist’s paradise of charming inner-city neighborhoods interconnected by high-speed rail networks is not entirely false, but it does not give the full picture of how most Europeans live. Contrary to the mythology embraced by romantics among planners and ‘green’ politicians, urban areas of Europe sprawl just as much as any American or Western city.  read more »