Planning

Democracy is For the Dogs

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With a new round of state and local elections just around the corner, I am regularly asked about what brings Americans out to the polls and helps them politically engage them with their communities.  read more »

Forced Upzoning is Bad Policy, But Here's How We Can Mitigate its Impacts

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A number of bills in the legislature would attempt to “solve” the state’s housing challenges by overriding local municipal zoning ordinances and statutorily allowing developers to build up to Sacramento-mandated levels of density.  The most notable of these bills is SB50, which has no provisions to make any of the housing built affordable, but espouses a “trickle-down” theory which suggests that market-rate (i.e. luxury) housing will “filter” down to create more affordable housing.  read more »

Three Studies That Show Density Doesn't Determine Car Travel

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Recent research sheds new light on the critical issue of the link between car travel and urban density. Conventional planning wisdom has it that increasing development density bestows benefits, most importantly that of reducing driving. This effect seems almost self-evident: more compaction, shorter distances, lower VMTs. Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy’s (1989) Cities and Automobile Dependence reinforced this intuitive assumption with their extensive and in-depth study (1986) which effectively sealed the case for thirty years.  read more »

Organic Urbanism is the Cure for New Urbanism

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This early 1900s house, after the neighborhood had been rezoned for apartments, declined in value to $7,000 in the 1970s. Being rezoned single-family brought decades of revitalization that raised the value of neighborhood homes like this one to $700,000.

New Urbanism is like a virus. For 50 years it keeps coming back in mutated forms. It needs a cure.  read more »

So Much for Localism

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In the months that followed President Trump’s election, many thoughtful Democrats and progressives re-discovered the beauties of federalism.

After all, with a brute in the White House, maybe the best thing to do was to devolve power to the local level, notably in urban centers where Trump is about as popular as the bubonic plague.  read more »

New York City Firefighters Union Calls Out Vision Zero, Bike Lanes, and Road Diets

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(QUEENS, NYC) An FDNY truck trapped on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens. Photograph courtesy of Dorothy Morehead.

New York City firefighters union calls out Vision Zero, bike lanes, and road diets: “You’re basically eliminating the ability for emergency service vehicles to get around”

Will firefighters unions in other cities follow suit?

After four years of lane reductions, arterial bike lanes, road diets, and other so-called “traffic calming” measures on the streets of New York, the country’s largest firefighters union is saying enough.  read more »

Transport Costs & Subsidies by Mode

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Supporters of increased subsidies to urban transit and intercity passenger trains often argue that all transportation is subsidized, so it’s only fair that transit and Amtrak should also be subsidized. While it’s true that most transportation is subsidized, it is worth looking at the extent of those subsidies to judge whether subsidies to some forms of transport should be increased or reduced.  read more »

If You Improve It, They Will Come

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My latest piece is now online at City Journal. It’s a recap of the Indianapolis BRT and Columbus free downtown transit success, as well as a look at Kansas City’s contemplation of free transit citywide. Thanks to a commenter here who originally alerted me to KC’s plans. Here’s an excerpt:  read more »

Cars, Not Trains or Planes Dominate Northeast Corridor Travel

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Northbound on the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and Newark

For years, Amtrak has been publicizing its large market share compared with planes in the Northeast Corridor, which covers the major metropolitan air markets of Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Providence and Boston. Amtrak’s Acela fast train provides quick service on the route, and its somewhat slower Northeast Regional trains make stops at locations less convenient to airline travel. Yet its overall share is much lower once all the transportation forms are included.  read more »

The Community and Economic Development Hierarchy

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Construction underway for a new 130,000 square foot shopping center located in Hollister, CA, May 17, 2019. Sadly, more communities want to see this than are actually able to have it. Source: sanbenito.com

I've spent many, many years of my career working to improve the economic development prospects of communities. Wanting to make a meaningful, positive contribution to the revitalization of cities is what pushed me into this career path. More to the point, I've spent a good deal of that time working in places that were facing stiff economic headwinds working against them.  read more »